SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Mayor Bob Filner was restricted from meeting with women alone at city facilities, a day after his former communications director said he made her feel “ashamed, frightened and violated” and is unfit for his job.
Irene McCormack Jackson, 57, is the first alleged victim to step forward since a sexual harassment scandal surrounding Filner broke out two weeks ago.
Jackson, a longtime San Diego Union-Tribune reporter who left to work for the Port of San Diego before accepting a job with Filner’s office in January, announced on Monday that she has filed a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court against Filner and the city.
It seeks unspecified damages. Jackson’s high-profile Los Angeles-based attorney, Gloria Allred, said they will ask for what is supported by the evidence that eventually comes out.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who has publicly feuded with the mayor on several occasions, said his office will defend the city, while Filner is represented by lawyer Harvey Berger.
Filner could ask the City Council to reimburse his personal legal expenses. However, the city can file a cross-complaint seeking reimbursement from Filner if the municipal government has to pay damages when the lawsuit is resolved, Goldsmith said.
“At my request, the mayor is not to meet with women alone at city facilities,’’ Goldsmith said. “That was agreed to by his lawyer, and it is being enforced by the chief of staff, deputy chief of staff. The chief of police is also aware of that and has made certain commitments.’’
The sexual harassment allegations were first aired publicly by three of Filner’s former political allies: former Councilwoman Donna Frye and lawyers Cory Briggs and Marcos Gonzalez. They said the alleged victims were two constituents and a city employee but did not publicly identify them.
In making the accusations, Frye, Briggs and Gonzalez demanded Filner’s immediate resignation. Since then, numerous other local leaders, including fellow Democrats, have called on him to step down. They include Councilmen David Alvarez and Todd Gloria, members of the local congressional delegation Susan Davis and Scott Peters, local Assemblywoman Toni Atkins and Lorena Gonzalez, who is Marcos’ sister.
The San Diego County Democratic Party met to discuss whether to also demand Filner’s resignation but failed to reach a consensus.
Filner initially apologized and admitted that he had a problem, then later demanded an investigation and his due process rights.
In a late-afternoon statement that followed McCormack’s announcement Monday, Filner said he was “saddened” by the charges that were leveled against him.
“Once due process is allowed to unfold, I am certain there will be a better understanding of this situation,” Filner said.
In her suit, McCormack alleges that Filner held her in a headlock while demanding kisses. She also said he told her she should work without her panties on, that he wanted to see her naked, that he could not wait to consummate their relationship, and that he wanted to marry her.
“He is not fit to be mayor of our great city,’’ McCormack said. “He is not fit to hold any public office.”
The recent resignation of Deputy Chief of Staff Allen Jones was the turning point for her, according to McCormack, who remains a communications director for the city but has transferred out of the mayor’s office.
“I knew then that Mayor Filner would not change,” she said. “He refused to listen to someone who he had known for 35 years and who told him explicitly during a senior staff meeting that his behavior with women was terrible and possibly illegal. Mayor Filner laughed it off.”