Harassment Allegations Against San Diego Mayor Emerge, But He’s Still Keynoting Military Sex Assault Event

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Harassment Allegations Against San Diego Mayor Emerge, But He’s Still Keynoting Military Sex Assault Event

Martha Kempner

Five days after San Diego Mayor Bob Filner apologized to his city and vowed to seek help after vague allegations of sexual harassment emerged, a lawsuit has been filed and details of his behaviors are emerging.

Last Thursday, Rewire reported that the mayor of San Diego had publicly apologized for inappropriate behavior toward women on his staff. Though the specifics of what he had either said or done were not released at the time, Filner called his own behavior “inappropriate and wrong” and acknowledged that he had to change in order to effectively lead the city. Filner, who served ten years in Congress before becoming San Diego’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years, said that he was going to get professional help, while ignoring suggestions from former supporters to resign. Such suggestions may get louder as details of his alleged behavior emerge in the wake of a lawsuit filed by a former employee.

Irene McCormack, the mayor’s former communications director, filed a sexual harassment suit against him on Monday. In the suit, she said he tried to kiss her, professed his love for her, asked her to marry him, and dragged her around the office in a headlock while whispering sexual advances.

At a press conference, alongside celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, McCormack also recounted the scene in which both she and Allen Jones, Filner’s former chief of staff, quit last month. She said that during a meeting, Jones told the mayor he was horrible toward women, his behavior was possibly illegal, and he needed “extreme therapy.” McCormack said she agreed that his behavior was terrible and was about to walk out of the meeting when Filner challenged her to name an incident of poor behavior. According to the lawsuit, she replied, “How about when you said that I should take my panties off and work without them?”

Though McCormack is the only woman to file a suit and be named publicly, there are alleged incidents involving other women as well. According to USA Today, former supporters of the mayor claim that Filner “jammed his tongue down a campaign volunteer’s throat on a public sidewalk and groped her in her car.” A constituent who attended a mayoral event at City Hall says that Filner took her to an enclosed area, told his staff member to leave, and then asked her on a date and kissed her. An anonymous employee (who may be McCormack) also complained that Filner grabbed her butt and touched her chest.

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More may soon come to light as the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has opened a hotline to take calls from any additional victims. Filner told USA Today he welcomes the hotline because “some of these allegations will finally be addressed by an appropriate investigative authority rather than by press conference and innuendo.”

Filner was set to receive a lifetime achievement award from the National Military Women Veterans Association of America at an August event benefiting victims of sexual assault in the military. When the allegations of his behavior initially became public, the group announced it would not present Filner with an award but he would still be allowed to speak at the benefit. As of now, the organization’s website is still promoting the August 30-31 event, and Filner is still listed as the keynote speaker.