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San Diego mayor faces sex harassment lawsuit, city faces uncertainty

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is being sued by his former communications director for sexual harassment. He has resisted calls to resign, saying he will defend himself 'vigorously.'

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer / July 23, 2013

Irene McCormack Jackson, the mayor's former director of communications and plaintiff in a sexual harassment lawsuit against San Diego and its mayor, Bob Filner, speaks during a press conference in San Diego Monday.

Sam Hodgson /Reuters

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Los Angeles

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's former communications director has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him, creating new problems for a city that has struggled with recent civic scandals.

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Though Mayor Filner has acknowledged “personal frailties,” he says the claims are not valid and he intends to fight them in court.

Since President Clinton survived attempts to drive him from office, some politicians have increasingly sought to ride out sex-related scandals. But such scandals often only damage both the politicians embroiled in them and the constituencies they serve, experts say.

“The longer the mayor hangs on, the political problem worsens for him and for the city long-term,” says David McCuan, a political scientist at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif. “The longer he holds out, the harder it will be to rebuild faith in the most public of offices – that of mayor of a big city.”

Irene McCormack Jackson filed the lawsuit against Filner Monday. She is represented by Gloria Allred, the attorney for several high-profile clients, including Sharon Bialek, who accused then-GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment, as well as Rachel Uchitel, one of Tiger Woods’s mistresses.

“I am coming forward today to lay the blame at the feet of the person responsible, Mayor Bob Filner,” Ms. McCormack Jackson said after detailing what she described as the mayor's harassment of her. “He is not fit to be mayor of our great city. He is not fit to hold any public office.”

McCormack Jackson said Filner asked her to “work without her panties on,” placed her in a headlock “and moved around as a ragdoll while he whispered sexual comments in my ear,” and said he wanted to have sex with her, among other alleged incidents.

“Women were viewed by Mayor Filner as sexual objects or stupid idiots,” said McCormack Jackson, a former reporter who resigned from her position as communications director in June. “His behavior made me feel ashamed, frightened, and violated.”

Filner responded to McCormack Jackson’s allegations in a statement late Monday.

“I do not believe these claims are valid,” Filner said. “That is why due process is so important. I intend to defend myself vigorously and I know that justice will prevail.” Despite having admitted on the air to Univision that he “brought this on through my own personal frailties,” Filner has resisted calls to resign.

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