Ex-Staffer Calls the Mayor’s Bluff

Ex-Staffer Calls the Mayor’s Bluff

Photo by Justin Bridle

Irene McCormack, right, came forward Monday to detail allegations against Mayor Bob Filner. She appeared with her attorney, Gloria Allred.

Piece by piece over the last 12 days, San Diegans have heard increasing details of sexual harassment accusations against Mayor Bob Filner. Monday afternoon, the biggest piece of the puzzle came forward. In doing so, she called the mayor’s bluff.

Irene McCormack, formerly the mayor’s top spokeswoman, revealed herself as one of the city staffers allegedly harassed by Filner, and called on him to resign. She told a roomful of cameras and reporters at a downtown hotel that the mayor had put her in a headlock and dragged her around while making sexually explicit comments. That after she had resisted a sexual advance inside her office, Filner told her that as mayor he couldn’t be kicked out of any office at City Hall. That Filner told her she would work better without her panties on.

“He is not fit to be mayor of our great city,” McCormack said. “He is not fit to hold any public office. A man who lacks character makes a mockery of his ideas.”

McCormack made her comments after filing a sexual harassment lawsuit earlier Monday and alongside her celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, who has made a career out of these kinds of big-name suits. McCormack’s lawsuit puts in black and white many of the grossest allegations against the mayor, laying out a pattern of his near constant sexual solicitations of her.

McCormack also puts substantial credibility behind the allegations. She spent decades as a well-respected journalist with the San Diego Union-Tribune, where she covered public safety and the 2003 wildfires, and then almost 10 years as an executive with the Unified Port of San Diego.

When McCormack entered the room for the press conference, assembled reporters buzzed, “It’s Irene. It’s Irene.”

Where this leaves the state of Filner’s mayorship is unclear.

Filner did not make a public response Monday in the hours after the press conference. Before McCormack’s revelation, he had become more defiant with each statement he issued since the allegations broke July 10. Filner had made clear he had no intention of resigning, and has argued that responding to anonymous allegations against him would violate his due process. This stance practically dared his accusers to come forward.

Filner also said that any independent inquiry would clear his name. With McCormack’s lawsuit, he’s now gotten the public accusations and the courtroom that he asked for.

Update: Filner released a statement at 5:30 p.m. on the lawsuit. He doesn’t appear to explicitly deny the allegations, but says he does not “believe these claims are valid.”

Here’s the statement in full: “I am saddened by the charges that were leveled against me today. Once due process is allowed to unfold, I am certain there will be a better understanding of this situation. 

I remain committed to the people of San Diego and the work that needs to be done. My dreams and plans for moving this City to new heights are continuing. I humbly ask that through this vicious storm of controversy, people take a moment and temper their rush to judgment.

I do not believe these claims are valid. That is why due process is so important. I intend to defend myself vigorously and I know that justice will prevail.”

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

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24 comments
David Crossley
David Crossley subscriber

Kevin--It was still up to Filner who he wanted on his staff. The ultimate question is, how much is this going to cost the city?

Joe Vargo
Joe Vargo

Donna Fry for mayor! Her time is NOW! Bob punched us in the gut and it hurts. Rise above progressive's. The fundamentals haven't changed.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw

To say Filner won’t resign is one thing. I tend to agree with you that he’ll hang in until he sees his situation as completely hopeless, and that may mean conviction on criminal charges that carry prison time, or maybe a successful recall. He is in the twilight of his career and must be asking himself what he does if he’s forced to resign. But to infer that the public has no right to attempt to remove him because we were aware of some of his flaws is nonsense. Bully? Sure. Prone to make inflammatory and tasteless remarks? You bet. Arrogant, power mad public official? Probably. But sexual predator,? No way. These charges are a totally different ballgame. He is accused of unwanted physical advances on numerous women over whom he had power, in the workplace, persisting in the face of a clear “no”. This is not consensual or purchased sex, it’s the most extreme case of sexual harassment possible, way beyond unwelcome or tasteless remarks. As for Filner’s relatively “clean” record in D.C., as we’ve seen many times the congress has a different standard for itself than for the public. He had a lot of company there. As Gloria Allred pointed out, it’s too bad Filner didn’t learn from what happened to Bob Packwood, which came about the time Filner was first elected to congress. I am simply astounded at people trying to conjure up some right wing conspiracy to entrap Filner in a phony scandal. Maybe that explains how he came to be elected. His ideology was so popular, nothing else mattered. But his accuser nailed it when she said “A man who lacks character makes a mockery of his ideas”.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

To say Filner won’t resign is one thing. I tend to agree with you that he’ll hang in until he sees his situation as completely hopeless, and that may mean conviction on criminal charges that carry prison time, or maybe a successful recall. He is in the twilight of his career and must be asking himself what he does if he’s forced to resign. But to infer that the public has no right to attempt to remove him because we were aware of some of his flaws is nonsense. Bully? Sure. Prone to make inflammatory and tasteless remarks? You bet. Arrogant, power mad public official? Probably. But sexual predator,? No way. These charges are a totally different ballgame. He is accused of unwanted physical advances on numerous women over whom he had power, in the workplace, persisting in the face of a clear “no”. This is not consensual or purchased sex, it’s the most extreme case of sexual harassment possible, way beyond unwelcome or tasteless remarks. As for Filner’s relatively “clean” record in D.C., as we’ve seen many times the congress has a different standard for itself than for the public. He had a lot of company there. As Gloria Allred pointed out, it’s too bad Filner didn’t learn from what happened to Bob Packwood, which came about the time Filner was first elected to congress. I am simply astounded at people trying to conjure up some right wing conspiracy to entrap Filner in a phony scandal. Maybe that explains how he came to be elected. His ideology was so popular, nothing else mattered. But his accuser nailed it when she said “A man who lacks character makes a mockery of his ideas”.

SueNami
SueNami

If I was an odds maker, I would put the over/under, i.e., the date and time of Filner's resignation, at around 3:00 p.m. local time this Friday. I don't think there is any way he can last through the week, and so I expect him to announce his resignation at this prescribed date and time to minimize press coverage at the start of a weekend.

Don Wood
Don Wood

Who recommended that Filner hire McCormick away from the Port in the first place? If McCormick didn't like Filner's style, why did she maneuver to become his daily handler, accompanying him to every event he went to? Something smells very fishy about this. Who is paying McCormick's legal fees?

Don Wood
Don Wood subscriber

Who recommended that Filner hire McCormick away from the Port in the first place? If McCormick didn't like Filner's style, why did she maneuver to become his daily handler, accompanying him to every event he went to? Something smells very fishy about this. Who is paying McCormick's legal fees?

Don Blucher
Don Blucher

Like they always say, "You can put lipstick on a pig(Filner), but................" I think the analogy to a "toad" would be more appropriate...

Don Blucher
Don Blucher subscriber

Like they always say, "You can put lipstick on a pig(Filner), but................" I think the analogy to a "toad" would be more appropriate...

Allen Hemphill
Allen Hemphill

The fact is that Democrats in the party apparatus KNEW that Filner was, is, a boorish, angry, and unstable individual -- but, he had the name-recognition necessary to win in a sea of generally low-information voters. They gambled hoping Filner would not explode -- but they gambled against the odds and lost. This fight is between factions of the Progressive movement, which like the Democratic Party in general is a political party of Special Interests. In this case, women on one side and unions on the other

Allen Hemphill
Allen Hemphill subscribermember

The fact is that Democrats in the party apparatus KNEW that Filner was, is, a boorish, angry, and unstable individual -- but, he had the name-recognition necessary to win in a sea of generally low-information voters. They gambled hoping Filner would not explode -- but they gambled against the odds and lost. This fight is between factions of the Progressive movement, which like the Democratic Party in general is a political party of Special Interests. In this case, women on one side and unions on the other

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Filner needs to fight this tooth and claw to the last ounce of strength in his body. Even if he loses, even if convicted of a crime, he needs to stay in the Mayors seat until removed by a vote of the people. After all, this is the man we elected, knowing what sort of man he was.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Filner needs to fight this tooth and claw to the last ounce of strength in his body. Even if he loses, even if convicted of a crime, he needs to stay in the Mayors seat until removed by a vote of the people. After all, this is the man we elected, knowing what sort of man he was.

Joe Vargo
Joe Vargo

Not me. Resign Mr. Filner. Doesn't change neighborhood first, ahead of special interest. I think legal bills are keeping him around. Just shameful.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin

Hope voters in this city see what the Democrat leadership and their unions are willing to do to put forth their agenda. Knowing full well Bobs M.O. they still sold him to the voters. They sold the voters a pig in a poke. City employees get their raises, managed competition gets shelved, cost go up and services go down. Now thats progressive. Now we have a he said she said (still no witnesses) so this whole tawdry episode will surely entertain while the city trudges on. At least Filner had the good sense to get Walt on board.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

Hope voters in this city see what the Democrat leadership and their unions are willing to do to put forth their agenda. Knowing full well Bobs M.O. they still sold him to the voters. They sold the voters a pig in a poke. City employees get their raises, managed competition gets shelved, cost go up and services go down. Now thats progressive. Now we have a he said she said (still no witnesses) so this whole tawdry episode will surely entertain while the city trudges on. At least Filner had the good sense to get Walt on board.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher

Like I said the other day...."It ain't lookin' too good for our female-grabbing, tongue-thrusting, power-obsessed, Mayor." The allegation(s) are being formalized....It's time to go, Bob.

Don Blucher
Don Blucher subscriber

Like I said the other day...."It ain't lookin' too good for our female-grabbing, tongue-thrusting, power-obsessed, Mayor." The allegation(s) are being formalized....It's time to go, Bob.

Richard Bagnell
Richard Bagnell

Filner needs to resign and his 'progressive' supporters need to stop their defense of this sleazy mayor.

Richard Bagnell
Richard Bagnell subscriber

Filner needs to resign and his 'progressive' supporters need to stop their defense of this sleazy mayor.

Kevin Klein
Kevin Klein

David - Filner's been in DC for over 20 years, to think he had a grasp on local talent and didn't rely heavily on recommendations from local power brokers. The better question is why did Irene take a 50k a year paycut to work for a known jerk of a boss? Did she expect Filner to be anything less than his reputation suggested?

David Crossley
David Crossley

Wasn't it ultimately up to Filner who he hired for his staff? What is really fishy is that the taxpayers may be the ones to eventually pickup McCormick's legal fees.

David Crossley
David Crossley subscriber

Wasn't it ultimately up to Filner who he hired for his staff? What is really fishy is that the taxpayers may be the ones to eventually pickup McCormick's legal fees.

David Crossley
David Crossley

Kevin--It was still up to Filner who he wanted on his staff. The ultimate question is, how much is this going to cost the city?