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Another city employee accuses Bob Filner of sexual harassment

Stacy McKenzie, 50, a manager in San Diego's parks department, alleges the mayor held her in a headlock and rubbed his body against hers at an event in April.

August 26, 2013|By Tony Perry
  • San Diego Mayor Bob Filner announces to the City Council on Aug. 23 that he's resigning after 17 women accused him of sexual harassment. His last day is Aug. 30.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner announces to the City Council on Aug. 23 that he's… (Don Bartletti, Los Angeles…)

SAN DIEGO — A longtime San Diego city employee filed a claim Monday accusing Mayor Bob Filner of sexual harassment and the city of failing "to protect and warn against Filner's predatory nature."

Filner is set to resign at 5 p.m. Friday, but the city is obligated to provide him with a legal defense against any claims "made by current or former employees, city volunteers or city contractors," under the deal approved by the City Council that included the mayor's resignation.

The agreement, however, maintained the city's right to sue Filner to recover any damages against the city arising from sexual harassment claims — except in the case of the lawsuit filed by Irene McCormack Jackson, Filner's former director of communications.

By a 7-0 vote of the council Friday, the city promised to pay Filner's share of any compensatory damages from the Jackson lawsuit and not to sue him to recover the city's share. Also, the city pledged to pay $98,000 to Filner's private lawyers.

The allegations of Stacy McKenzie, 50, a manager in the Park and Recreation Department, are similar to those made by 17 other women during the frenzied six weeks of the scandal that council members said paralyzed city government.

McKenzie accuses Filner of "placing her in a headlock, rubbing his body against hers, rubbing his elbow against her breasts, [and] rubbing her arm" after asking for a date, according to the claim.

The claim, filed by attorney Daniel Gilleon, includes the names of two city employees who allegedly witnessed the incident at a public event in April at De Anza Cove on Mission Bay. The claim alleges that Filner committed battery, gender violence and sexual harassment and that the city was guilty of negligence.

McKenzie's "dignity was stolen by the mayor at a public event," Gilleon said.

A claim can be a forerunner to a lawsuit if a settlement is not reached. Gilleon said he hoped City Atty. Jan Goldsmith would "negotiate a fair and balanced settlement."

In his apologetic and yet defiant comments to the City Council after the vote, Filner attributed any sexual misconduct to "awkwardness and hubris" and insisted he never sexually harassed anyone.

"To all the women that I offended, I had no intention to be offensive, to violate any physical or emotional space," Filner said. "I was trying to establish personal relationships."

The agreement approved by Filner and the City Council was the result of three days of negotiations between Filner, his lawyers, Goldsmith, Council President Todd Gloria and Councilman Kevin Faulconer. The negotiations were overseen by retired federal Judge J. Lawrence Irving, who donated his time.

Moments after Friday's vote, the state attorney general's office confirmed that a criminal investigation of Filner's conduct toward women was underway by the that office and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department. The agreement makes no mention of legal fees that Filner could face from such an investigation and possible charges.

The council on Wednesday may set Nov. 19 for a special election to find a replacement for the final three years of the 70-year-old Democrat's term. If no candidate gets more than 50%, a runoff would then be held, most likely in January.

Once Filner's resignation is effective, Gloria, also a Democrat, will become the interim mayor.

Gloria, Faulconer, former Councilman Carl DeMaio, and county Supervisor Ron Roberts are considering a run for mayor. Former state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher has filed with the city clerk to open an exploratory committee for a possible run.

Faulconer, DeMaio and Roberts are Republicans. When he was in the Legislature, Fletcher was a Republican. He ran for mayor last year as an independent, and he's now a Democrat.

Goldsmith and Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis have said they would not be candidates.

tony.perry@latimes.com

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