Mission Bay Parks and Rec Director Stacy McKenzie is claiming a half million dollars in damages. Is that a fair price for the so called "Filner Headlock"? You can now see McKenzie's version of it in this animated account. NBC 7's Dave Summers reports.
A San Diego parks employee has filed a lawsuit against Bob Filner, marking the second such civil sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a city worker against the former embattled mayor.
This time, the lawsuit concerns Stacy McKenzie, a manager with the city’s Park and Recreation Department employed by the city for more than 32 years. The suit is being filed on McKenzie’s behalf through her attorney, Dan Gilleon.
McKenzie is seeking $500,000 in damages.
According to Gilleon, his client was a victim of sexual harassment at the hands of Filner during his short-lived term as mayor.
The suit alleges that Filner made suggestive comments towards McKenzie, grabbed her hands and asked her out on a date during a public event at the De Anza Cove on Mission Bay back in late April.
At one point, Filner allegedly also put McKenzie in the now-infamous “Filner Headlock,” approaching her from behind and grabbing her in front of two other city employees at the public event. Filner is accused of rubbing up against McKenzie during their interaction, "rubbing her left arm, while his elbow rested on her breasts."
Prior to filing the lawsuit on Wednesday, which seeks unspecified damages, Gilleon released a computer animation video created by his legal team that depicts what Filner allegedly did to McKenzie.
In the video (seen below), an animated character meant to depict Filner makes suggestive comments, including asking McKenzie if she has a boyfriend or husband. The animated character also snickers and tells McKenzie he wants to take her on a date.
In Gilleon’s words, the “animation helps tell Stacy’s story, but it’s just a starting point.”
The attorney also had this to say about the video on Wednesday:
“For this initial release, we downplayed some of the more severe acts by Filner, such as the initial handlock and the later headlock that included his elbow rubbing her breasts. The story and animation will be developed as depositions occur, such as when the two park rangers depicted in the animation testify.”
Gilleon said the use of animation in sexual harassment lawsuits is “fairly cutting edge” because acts of sexual harassment are not often caught on tape.
“Most men will act like Boy Scouts when they know they're being filmed. Sexual harassment usually occurs behind closed doors, when no cameras around. We hope that the employers out there who regularly sexually harass their employees with impunity will think twice when they realize their actions may end up on a screen in front a jury someday, in the form of an animation,” said Gilleon.
In a previous interview, McKenzie told NBC 7 San Diego she had reported the incident to people within the city and on July 16 filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity office, according to her attorney.
For his part, Filner – who announced his resignation on Aug. 23 and officially stepped down from office on Aug. 30 – has been back in the spotlight this week.
On Monday, he was sentenced to 90 days of home confinement as punishment for three criminal charges connected to the sexual harassment scandal that ended his term as San Diego mayor.
At his sentencing, Filner took a moment to speak and apologize to his victims and the citizens of San Diego. His victims declined to comment in court.
Back in October, the disgraced politician pleaded guilty to three counts against three unnamed women, including felony false imprisonment and two misdemeanor charges of battery.
Those victims, identified in court documents as “Jane Doe 1, 2 and 3,” included a businesswoman who claimed Filner held her against her will and kissed her at a fundraiser. Another victim was the daughter of a longtime supporter who was grabbed by Filner while taking a photo with her family.
Those women were among a slew of others who accused the former mayor of inappropriate behavior and sexual advances during the Filner scandal.
The accusations against Filner first went public in July when many of his former allies, including former San Diego City Councilmember Donna Frye, exposed his behavior and demanded he step down from office.
From there, more than a dozen women came forward with stories of sexual harassment at the hands of Filner, including former communications director to the mayor, Irene McCormack Jackson, who filed a lawsuit against the city.
After weeks of controversy, recall efforts and more accusers, Filner resigned.
On Nov. 19, San Diego held a special election to fill the mayor’s seat left vacant by Filner.
Councilmember Kevin Faulconer finished first in last month's special mayoral election, securing one of two spots in the February runoff for Filner's former seat. Councilmember David Alvarez, who came in second place, will face off against Faulconer in February.