So much for keeping the city's legal expenses at $90,000 when defending sexual harassment allegations against former mayor Bob Filner. The city is instead forced to fight the level of sexual harassment training it provides to city employees. The charge is included in the recently posted lawsuit from Parks and Recreation employee Stacy McKenzie.
McKenzie's complaint, recently obtained from San Diego Superior Court, gives four causes of action in the case against Filner.
Before the complaint was made public, McKenzie's attorney, Daniel Gilleon, released an animated reenactment of the incident that occurred earlier this year during an event at Mission Bay Park. The clip was posted on YouTube and was covered by a number of media outlets — Reader film critic Scott Marks even gave the animated clip a five-star review.
The complaint alleged that Filner grabbed McKenzie by her hand, asked her on a date, and then creeped up on her later at the other side of the park, grabbing her in the "Filner headlock" and rubbing his elbow on her breasts. The incident compelled McKenzie — who has worked for the city for 32 years — to steer clear of City Hall for two months and kept her from answering her phone for two weeks.
As for the first charge of sexual harassment, McKenzie says she "sustained, and will continue to sustain, general and special damages, including, but not limited to, past, present, and future medical expenses, physical and emotional distress, embarrassment, and mental anguish."
The first three charges, all against Filner, are directed at Filner, allowing her, if a judge agrees, to ask that Filner pay any punitive damages out of his own pocket.
In the fourth cause of action, McKenzie points the finger at the city for allowing the harassment to occur and for "failing to ensure Filner underwent sexual harassment training." She is asking that the city pay for damages, legal fees, and any additional relief that the court sees fit to provide.
11/18 12:10 p.m. update: City attorney spokesperson Thomas Mitchell had this to say about the lawsuit: "The city is named in these lawsuits because under state law the city, as an employer, is liable for sexual harassment of employees by a city supervisor such as a mayor. That liability exists even if the city doesn’t know about the conduct. So, that means there must be (1) sexual harassment of (2) an employee. If that occurs the city has what is called 'strict liability.' This is one of the reasons the City Attorney took steps to remove Filner after he learned of the claims, an investigation was conducted and the psych gave input as to risks.
"Under the settlement agreement, the City Attorney will provide a joint defense for the city and Filner in lawsuits brought by employees. Why only employees? Because the city has that 'strict liability.' However, under the law if the city has to pay a plaintiff damages for sexual harassment claims due to a supervisor (such as a mayor)’s conduct, the city could turn around and sue the supervisor (such as a mayor) for reimbursement. You might recall that the city did that by filing a cross-complaint against Filner in the McCormack Jackson case. The city has preserved its right to seek reimbursement against Filner in all cases except the McCormack Jackson case.
"As for the $98K, the city agreed to pay up to $98K for Filner’s private attorneys to advise him. He then agreed that the City Attorney’s office can provide the joint defense in cases brought by employees and that the city did not have to hire outside counsel. The $98K cap has been reached and there will be no additional payments."