San Diego Mayor Faces Lawsuit, Calls to Resign

     SAN DIEGO (CN) – Mayor Bob Filner asked an aide to work without panties, and dragged her around in a “Filner headlock” like a rag doll while whispering sexual comments in her ear, the woman claims in court.
     Irene McCormack Jackson sued her former boss Monday in Superior Court and added to the mounting calls for the 70-year-old mayor to resign.
     Filner was forced to publicly apologize less than two weeks ago, after a former city councilwoman accused him of sexually harassing her and city hall staff. Filner admitted he needs help but has resisted calls to step down as mayor.
     In a statement to the press, McCormack Jackson called her six months in Filner’s administration “the worst time of my entire working life.”
     “I had to work and do my job in an atmosphere where women were viewed by Mayor Filner as sexual objects or stupid idiots,” she said. “I saw him place his hands where they did not belong on numerous women.
     McCormack Jackson says she was optimistic when Filner was elected mayor in 2012, believing the man who served 19 years as a U.S. congressman would do “great things” for the city.
     A veteran journalist and former executive for the Port of San Diego, McCormack Jackson says she agreed to take a $50,000 pay cut to become the mayor’s communications director.
     “We did not have a relationship other than work,” she told reporters yesterday. “That is all I wanted and I never gave him any reason to think otherwise. Nonetheless, he thought that it was acceptable behavior to regularly make sexual comments that were crude and disgusting.”
     The harassment began within a month of McCormack Jackson’s first day of work on Jan. 3, according to the complaint. McCormack Jackson says Filner suggested she kiss him before his state-of-the-city speech on Jan. 25.
     About a month later, he allegedly made an inappropriate comment in an elevator with his aide and a police officer, who was fixing his handcuffs. According to the lawsuit: “The mayor put a headlock on plaintiff and said, ‘you know what I would like to do with those handcuffs?”
     In a second elevator incident, Filner “pulled plaintiff McCormack Jackson toward him while placing his arms around her without her consent,” the lawsuit states.
     “He said in sum or substance, ‘you know you are beautiful. I have always loved you. Someday I know that you are going to marry me. I am so in love with you. Wouldn’t it be great if you took off your panties and worked without them on?'”
     The former aide says Filner put her in another headlock at a City Hall event in June.
     “McCormack Jackson could not get away,” the 11-page complaint states. “His grip was too strong. As Mayor Filner pulled her along, he told her that she was ‘so beautiful’ and that he had loved her for a long time. Plaintiff could not move.”
     Last month the mayor allegedly professed that he was “infatuated” with McCormack Jackson and asked: “When are you going to get naked?” When she told him to leave her office, she claims he shot back: “you cannot kick me out. I am the mayor. I can go anywhere I want, any time I want.”
     McCormack Jackson says the mayor’s harassment of women prompted the resignations of five female staffers, Chief of Staff Vince Hall and Deputy Chief of Staff Allen Jones during the mayor’s short tenure.
     “The day that Mr. Allen Jones resigned as deputy chief of staff was the turning point for me in the mayor’s office,” the former aide said in her statement. “I knew then that Mayor Filner would not change. He refused to listen to someone whom 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. After I spoke up in support of Mr. Jones and went to leave the room, Mayor Filner challenged me to give him one example of how his behavior toward me was improper. I pointed out that he had asked me to work without my underwear on. He had no comeback.”
     McCormack Jackson says she almost quit after Jones resigned, but Filner persuaded her to stay after confessing he had been “despicable toward women” and promising to get sexual harassment training.
     “I wanted to keep what I had experienced hidden and compartmentalized,” McCormack Jackson said at the press conference. “I felt that I could tough it out.”
     But she says that changed when friends and family began noticing how “different and uncommunicative” she had become while working for the mayor.
     “I am coming forward … to lay the blame at the feet of the person responsible, Mayor Bob Filner,” she said. “He is not fit to be the mayor of our great city. He is not fit to hold any public office. A man who lacks character makes a mockery of his ideas.
     She says the mayor has used the “Filner headlock” on other women and has “engaged in sexually offensive behavior with other female employees.”
     McCormack Jackson’s attorney, Gloria Allred, also issued a statement calling on the embattled mayor to “resign immediately.”
     “You have disgraced yourself and the office that you hold,” the civil rights lawyer said.
     Filner’s fiancee at the time, Bronwyn Ingram, reportedly called off their engagement on July 8.
     McCormack Jackson seeks unspecified actual and punitive damages, and costs.
     Filner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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