Aide to disgraced former San Diego mayor settles sex harassment suit

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 10, 2014 9:18 PM

By Marty Graham

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - The city of San Diego and its disgraced former mayor, Bob Filner, have agreed to pay his ex-press secretary $250,000 to settle the sexual harassment suit she brought against them, with the entire sum coming from municipal coffers, city officials said on Monday.

Filner, 71, signed off on the agreement as the principal defendant in the lawsuit brought by Irene McCormack Jackson but will pay nothing to settle the complaint, in keeping with a separate deal he reached with the city before he resigned in August.

"Nothing will come out of his pocket," City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said in announcing the latest agreement at the city's Civic Center Plaza.

"This is a big step towards putting this behind our community," he told reporters. "This is what's called a clean settlement in that there are no hanging issues."

The municipal government admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, which the City Council approved unanimously in closed session on Monday, Goldsmith said. It was not clear whether Filner acknowledged misconduct in the accord.

Filner, who pleaded guilty in October to criminal charges of false imprisonment and battery involving three other women and was sentenced in December to three months of home confinement, was not present for the news conference.

Neither was McCormack Jackson nor her attorney, Gloria Allred, who scheduled a news conference of her own for Tuesday.

McCormack Jackson was the first of nearly 20 women to publicly accuse Filner of making unwanted sexual advances and other inappropriate behavior during his brief tenure as mayor of California's second-largest city.

As part of her settlement, McCormack Jackson will end her employment with the city on April 1, Goldsmith said. She had served as Filner's communications director for six months and has been on unpaid administrative leave since last fall.

In the lawsuit she filed in July, McCormack Jackson accused her boss of asking her to "get naked" and kiss him, and of placing her in a virtual "head lock" while he suggested they get married and asking, "Wouldn't it be great if we consummated the marriage?"

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In subsequent court filings in conjunction with her lawsuit, McCormack Jackson said she was seeking nearly $1.5 million in damages. The city attorney said sexual harassment suits brought by two other accusers against Filner and the city remain outstanding.

The former 10-term U.S. congressman assumed office in 2013 as the first Democrat elected mayor of the traditionally conservative city, seeking to pursue a more progressive agenda.

But he quickly lost the support of his own party, the entire City Council and the public as a growing number of women came forward to accuse him.

A runoff election between two city councilmen vying to succeed Filner - a Republican backed by the city's downtown establishment and a Democrat seeking to become San Diego's first Hispanic mayor - is set for Tuesday.

(Reporting by Marty Graham; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Ken Wills)