Council signs off on settlement of Filner suit

Posted at 11:37 AM, Apr 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-12 14:40:24-04

The City Council signed off Tuesday on a $667,000 settlement in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's executive assistant.

The deal first reached about two months ago scrubbed a trial that had been scheduled to begin in San Diego Superior Court stemming from the suit brought by Benelia Santos-Hunter, who worked for Filner for eight months.

RELATED: Jury clears former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner of wrongdoing in suit filed by city parks manager

The payout is the largest of four settlements related to the disgraced former mayor and onetime congressman. It was passed without comment by the council members.

"There was compelling evidence that she was a victim of sexual advancement over that time," City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said at a Feb. 2 news conference to announce the agreement. He added that the harassment "occurred on a continuous basis."

According to her court papers, Filner harassed Santos-Hunter by kissing her on the forehead, staring into her eyes and asking if she realized how beautiful she was.

On Valentine's Day 2013, Filner tried to hug and kiss her without her consent, and said things like "You need me as your lover" and "Be my Valentine," according to her complaint.

The suit accused the former mayor of other misconduct, including locking Santos-Hunter in a room, placing her in what became known as the "Filner headlock," touching her buttocks and attempting to touch her breasts.

At the news conference, Santos-Hunter told reporters it was "very, very difficult to speak up, but it was the right thing to do."

Filner took office in December 2012, but his administration began to unravel the following summer amid allegations of various types of misconduct, including sexual harassment.

According to the city attorney, the allegations prompted an investigation, which is when Filner's behavior toward Santos-Hunter was learned. He said the two were in adjoining offices separated by a door, with daily interactions between them.

The city previously settled two other lawsuits and a claim involving the ex-mayor, who now lives in Los Angeles.

In a trial of another lawsuit, a jury declined to award damages to a city parks supervisor. One other lawsuit remains unresolved.

Filner -- who resigned in August 2013 -- admitted in court in December 2013 that he grabbed and fondled three women while in office and was sentenced to three years probation, along with three months of home detention.