The woman who reached a $250,000 settlement with the City of San Diego in a civil lawsuit involving former embattled Mayor Bob Filner said she can now move on with her life knowing she and other victims of sexual harassment were truly heard and made a difference.
“I send my love and regards to the brave women who followed me into the public spotlight last summer and told their disturbing tales of about being sexually harassed by the former mayor. I know how difficult and harsh it was to go public against a figure who held the power of political office for so long,” said Irene McCormack Jackson, Filner’s former communications director. “Together, we made a difference. I stand in solidarity with you.”
TIMELINE: Mayor Under Fire
McCormack Jackson filed a lawsuit against the City of San Diego in July 2013 alleging that Filner sexually harassed her several times while she worked as his communications director.
Among the accusations, the lawsuit alleged that Filner placed McCormack Jackson in the now-infamous “Filner Headlock,” forced kisses on her and told her to come to work without underwear on. He also told her he wanted to see her naked and couldn’t wait to consummate their relationship, according to the lawsuit.
McCormack Jackson was among the first women to publicly come forward with her story of sexual harassment at the hands of Filner in the scandal that rocked San Diego City Hall last summer and eventually led to Filner’s resignation.
On Monday, the City of San Diego announced it had reached a $250,000 settlement in McCormack’s civil lawsuit. The settlement was negotiated between City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and McCormack Jackson’s famed attorney, Gloria Allred.
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The settlement holds the city – as McCormack Jackson’s employer – strictly liable for Filner’s actions. Goldsmith said Filner signed off on the agreement, releasing him and the city from further liability.
SPECIAL SECTION: Mayor Under Fire
On Tuesday, accompanied by Allred, McCormack Jackson held a press conference in San Diego to discuss her thoughts on the settlement.
McCormack Jackson said she was pleased with the agreement, and glad to move on with her life.
“It is a good morning for me. I’m glad to be bringing this chapter of my life to a close. I’m in a much better frame of mind. And it feels good,” said McCormack Jackson, smiling at her attorney.
McCormack Jackson said it’s “fitting” that approval for her settlement was announced the day before San Diego’s special election for a new mayor, as it also gives the city a fresh start.
She went on to thank her family, friends and attorney for all of their support during a time that took a serious “emotional toll” on her.
McCormack Jackson also thanked former city Councilmember Donna Frye, the woman who, alongside Marco Gonzalez and Cory Briggs, first brought the Filner sexual harassment scandal to light last summer and demanded the mayor’s resignation.
“I came through much stronger because of [Donna’s] friendship. Her last day at the mayor’s office was so sad for me, and starkly showed how obtuse and obstructive the office atmosphere was. Thanks for resigning, Donna. It showed me a way out,” she said.
Though it was scary for McCormack Jackson to go public with her accusations of Filner, she said the support she received from strangers on the streets of San Diego – including both women and men – gave her hope and made her feel validated during a difficult time.
“Your words of support gave me hope and helped me heal because you believed me,” she said. “To those who shared their stories of sexual harassment and abuse [with me], I believe you. There is nothing you did to provoke it. It just was. And I believe you.”
Allred also took a few moments to speak at Tuesday’s press conference regarding the settlement and McCormack Jackson, calling the agreement a “positive and fair solution.”
“This settlement is a vindication of Irene’s claims and it is an outstanding result for her,” said Allred. ”Irene is ready to move on with her life, without constant reminders in litigation of Filner. With this settlement, Irene can begin a new chapter in life.”
Allred called her client “a profile in courage” for taking the risk to share her story publicly.
The settlement, which will be paid in one lump sum from the city treasury, covers all of McCormack Jackson’s claims against Filner and attorney fees. The case had originally been scheduled to go to trial in February 2015.
McCormack Jackson is currently on unpaid leave and will officially leave city employment on Apr. 1, 2014, on her on will. On Tuesday, she said she wasn’t sure what the future had in store for her, but she wants her new endeavors to include writing and she wants her “work to be a benefit to others.”
Though McCormack Jackson’s case has been resolved, two other lawsuits involving Filner’s alleged sexual harassment are still pending against City of San Diego. One involves a city Parks and Recreation employee, while the other involves a Marine veteran and nurse.
In October 2013, Filner pleaded guilty to felony false imprisonment and two misdemeanor charges of battery.
In December, he was sentenced to 90 days of home confinement as punishment for the charges. He began serving the house arrest sentence on Jan. 1, 2014. Per his plea agreement, Filner was also placed on probation for the next three years and ordered to undergo mental health counseling.