As I was saying to my editor the other day, just before I put him in a headlock and told him I loved him, any time a sheriff creates a sexual harassment hotline for women who believe they are victims of the local mayor, it’s not a good sign for the mayor.
Even if nobody calls.
On Friday, San Diego County Sheriff William Gore said his department would take the lead in any investigations resulting from hotline tips. Anyone coming forward is guaranteed anonymity, he said, and valid complaints will forwarded to the California attorney general’s office for potential prosecution.
That was the bad end to a very bad week for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, in which a trio of former supporters practically begged the Democrat to step down as they detailed some of the obnoxious, potentially illegal behavior they say he has visited on staffers, campaign volunteers and constituents. Also last week, his ex-fiancee, Bronwyn Ingram, disclosed that she broke off their engagement because he was abusive and made passes at other women in her presence. (Ick.)
This week has only brought more bad news for the 70-year-old mayor.
(Confession: I did not put actually put my editor in a headlock. I just wondered what it would feel like to type those words, to imagine that scenario. I’m pretty sure I'd be fired if I did what Filner is alleged to have done. And if my editor did that to me, he’d be fired and have a lawsuit on his hands.)
Oh, and what do you know? On Monday, my colleague Tony Perry reported, a former Filner staffer filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him in San Diego County Superior Court.
Irene McCormack Jackson, 57, Filner’s former director of communications, wants a jury trial and damages. Her attorney is feminist powerhouse Gloria Allred.
According to the lawsuit, McCormack Jackson took a $50,000 cut in pay to work for the new mayor, a Democrat whose agenda she believed in enough to leave her $175,000 job as vice president of public policy at the Port of San Diego. She started her new post on Jan. 3. Three weeks later, the harassment began, first with a request for a kiss.
In February, according to the lawsuit, she was in an elevator with the mayor and a police officer, who fiddled with his handcuffs. The mayor allegedly put McCormack Jackson in a headlock and asked, “You know what I would like to do with those handcuffs?”
Later that month, or in early March, the pair were alone on an elevator when Filner told McCormack Jackson, “I’m so in love with you. Wouldn’t it be great if you took off your panties and worked without them on?” Then, she alleges, he kissed her as she tried to pull away.
One Saturday in April, when Filner met with constituents, McCormack Jackson told the mayor that his favorite chocolate doughnuts were available. “Without her consent,” the suit alleges, Filner put McCormack Jackson into a headlock and dragged her toward the doughnuts. “His grip was too strong,” the suit says, and she was unable to extricate herself. “When are we going to get married?” the mayor, who was engaged, asked her. “Wouldn’t it be great if we consummated the marriage?”
He finally let go, the suit says, when she said, “Sir, you have people out there.”
In response to the accusations and the calls to resign, Filner has adopted a strategy that is either brilliant or totally nuts.
In a video, he has confessed to having a problem, apologized for mistreating his female staff and vowed to undergo sexual harassment prevention training. “I need help,” he said. But he denies sexually harassing anyone, ever.
He seems grateful for any intervention yet curiously unable to grasp the idea he might have stepped over a legal line.
“I very much welcome the fact that some of these allegations will finally be addressed by an appropriate investigative authority rather than by press conference and innuendo,” he said in response to the hotline. “As I have stated before, everyone deserves due process and I am encouraged an effort to implement that has begun.”
I’m not into Thelma and Louise-style revenge scenarios, but I think a taste of his own medicine might be just the thing for the wayward Mayor Filner.
Someone should put him in a headlock, give him a few hard noogies and ask him how it feels to be treated like that.