Filner’s assistant and the City reach formal settlement

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Tuesday — A deal reached two months ago between the city of San Diego and Mayor Bob Filner’s executive assistant was formally approved Tuesday.

The city reached a settlement with Benelia Santos-Hunter for $667,000 that dropped the sexual harassment civil lawsuit she brought against the former Mayor and Tuesday, the city publicly approved the deal. 

The payout is the largest of the four settlements related to lawsuits filed against the disgraced former mayor.

Santos-Hunter worked for Filner for eight months. “There was compelling evidence that she was a victim of sexual advancement over that time,” according to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith in February.

According to court papers, Filner harassed Santos-Hunter by kissing her on the forehead, staring in her eyes and asking if she realized how beautiful she was. On Valentine’s Day in 2013, Filner tried to hug and kiss her without consent and said things like, “You need me as your lover” and Be my Valentine,” the complaint said.

She also accused him of locking her in a room, putting her in the infamous “Filner headlock,” touching her buttocks and touching her breasts.

Santos-Hunter said she had difficulty speaking up “but it was the right thing to do.”

According to the city attorney, allegations around the summer of 2013 prompted an investigation into the former mayor that ended with his resignation in August 2013. Filner took office December of the previous year.

A former parks employee, Stacie McKenzie lost her civil lawsuit against the former mayor last month. Two other lawsuits were settled out of court and a fourth lawsuit remains unresolved.

Filner admitted in court in December 2013 to grabbing and fondling three women while in office and was sentenced to three years probation and three months home detention.

4/31/16 4:15 p.m. — The Jury found Bob Filner not guilty of sexual battery against former San Diego supervisor in the City Parks department, Stacy McKenzie.

The jury did find that McKenzie was subjected to unwanted harassing conduct because she is a woman, but the panel found the harassment was not "severe or pervasive” and they did not award her any damages.

Related Video: Jan Goldsmith on Filner Case

KUSI News spoke with juror #12, who did not want to go on camera. None of the other jurors were willing to be on camera either, as none of them wanted to be "associated with the verdict."

Juror #12 said none of the jurors felt good about the verdict, but they felt they had no choice based on how the questions were worded. She reported the foreman was crying.

 Filner, 73, was not in court when the verdict was read.

11:15 a.m. — Closing arguments by both the prosecution and the defense were made and completed Wednesday morning in the case against former Mayor Bob Filner.

The case is now in the hands of the jury.

Former San Diego supervisor in the City Parks department, Stacy McKenzie, is suing the city of San Diego and Bob Filner for $500K after claiming that the ex-congressman grazed her breast and pressed up against her buttocks in 2013.

Tuesday — Tuesday marked the final day of testimony in the case against former Mayor Bob Filner.

He’s being sued for $500 thousand for sexual harassment.

Stacy McKenzie is one of the 20 women who have accused him of similar behavior.

Taxpayers have already shelled out almost $2 million to five of those women.

Even though the city paid a lo of money to a lot of women to make this go away, they rejected the claims for two women.

One of them in Stacy McKenzie.

She used to be a supervisor in the City Parks department and claims that the former mayor got her in the so-called "Filner headlock."

In court Tuesday, lawyers for Filner attempted to convince the jury that McKenzie has blown the whole event out of proportion.

On the final full day of testimony, lawyers for the former Mayor Bob Filner are trying to paint a different picture of what happened that day.

They’re trying to convince the jury that former Parks Supervisor Stacy McKenzie did not suffer emotional damage, even if Bob Filner groped her in public.

They even showed a Facebook picture of McKenzie partying and having a good time at Mardi Gras about a month after it happened.

At $500 an hour, the city hired a psychiatrist to raise questions about the impact of the now infamous "Filner headlock."

McKenzie said it changed her life forever, but the hired doctor says maybe not.

Along with questioning the emotional impact on Miss McKenzie, the city is also trying to convince the jury that the leader of the city was not fully aware of the city’s very own sexual harassment policies.

This, even though he was clearly informed on his way into office.

But, there was no follow-up. 

In fact, at the time, there was no mechanism to confirm that city employees actually read the policy that includes the mayor.

Monday 2:00 p.m.  A woman who sued the city and former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, claiming he sexually harassed her and committed sexual battery against her at an event three years ago, told a colleague it wasn’t that big a deal and he was "just a stupid guy,” a witness testified Monday.

Kathryn Ruiz, who has worked for the city of San Diego for 28 years — mostly in human resources — was the first witness for the defense in trial of the suit brought by former city parks manager Stacy McKenzie.

McKenzie alleges that Filner grabbed her from behind at an April 2013 event at Mission Bay Park, pressed against her buttocks and grazed her breasts with his arm.

Ruiz, who worked with McKenzie, said the plaintiff told her what happened with Filner at the "Clairemont Days” celebration and Ruiz told her the incident needed to be reported.

The witness said McKenzie — who was not working at the event — told her that Filner grabbed her from behind after she introduced herself and asked her on a date.

McKenzie said Filner never called her after getting her business card and the incident didn’t make her angry or scared, according to Ruiz.

Ruiz testified that McKenzie "didn’t feel harassed or intimidated” by Filner, saying the whole encounter "just was creepy.”

8:00 a.m. — The plaintiff is expected to rest the civil lawsuit against former Mayor Bob Filner and the city today.

Stacy McKenzie claimed that Filner grabbed her from behind, pressed up against her and grazed her breasts at an event in April of 2013.

Last week, Filner denied these allegations, answering questions about the incident with “That’s not true, sir” or “That never happened, sir” or "I don’t recall ever doing that, sir."

When speaking about his resignation, Filner said “The whole experience was incredibly devastating. I didn’t think I was guilty to many of the allegations.”

He later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and felony false imprisonment and sentenced to three months on house arrest and three years probation.

McKenzie’s lawsuit was filed after the city denied her a $500,000 claim. Four similar cases were settled by the city for a total of more than $1 million. One other lawsuit has not been settled.

3/24/2016  Thursday was day three of the Bob Filner civil trial and different experts mounted the stand in support of Stacey Mackenzie’s claims of sexual harassment.

Lawyers for the plaintiff, Stacy Mackenzie, claim Filner sexually harassed her while he was still mayor.

The former mayor is still refuting these claims and saying she is lying.

Mackenzie is seeking half a million dollars from the former mayor for damages.

3/23/2016 — Former Mayor Bob Filner took the stand Wednesday in the civil lawsuit against him and the city which alleges that he sexually harassed city employee Stacie McKenzie. He responded to questions about the incident with phrases such as, "I don’t recall ever doing that, sir."

Filner was expected to take the stand Tuesday but McKenzie took the stand instead. She described the details of the alleged harassment on April 21, 2013 claiming that after meeting the Mayor, he approached her from behind, put his arms around her and as his arm began to drop, grazed her breast. McKenzie testified that Filner grabbed her wrists tightly and asked her to go to lunch with him saying, "I want to make this perfectly clear—this is not a business lunch, this is a date."

McKenzie said she felt "doomed" because of the mayor’s prominence and connections to the city. 

3/18/2016 — The civil trial for one of two sexual harassment lawsuits against former San Diego mayor Bob Filner began Friday.

Seven sexual battery lawsuits were filed against Filner but one million dollars has already been paid to settle five of the suits. One payout for $667,000 was as recent as last month.

The trial Friday focuses on allegations from Stacie McKenzie that Filner grabbed her from behind, put her in a headlock and rubbed her breasts in April 2013. Allegations also include inappropriate comments about McKenzie’s appearance and Filner’s desires.

Stacie McKenzie has been a city parks employee for 32 years.

Jury selection and opening statements are expected next week. 

8/20/2014 — Disgraced former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner gave a 90-minute deposition Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by a city employee who claims he sexually harassed her.

Filner provided testimony in the case of Stacy McKenzie, who alleges Filner grabbed her from behind, put her in a headlock and rubbed her breasts at an event at a city park. She sued him and the city, and is seeking $500,000 in damages.

The district manager for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department alleges the incident took place in April 2013 at an event at North DeAnza Cove in Mission Bay.

"(Filner) said he didn’t remember anything about the incident," her lawyer, Dan Gilleon, told City News Service.

Instead, the ex-mayor reiterated the sort of comments he made around the time he stepped down, in August 2013, apologizing and saying he was unaware that he was harming women, according to the attorney.

"Physically, he looked good – healthy, at peace," Gilleon said. "At first, it was tense, as you’d expect. But he’s a longtime politician, a U.S. congressman. He has a charm there."

McKenzie said last year that at the park function, Filner inquired if she had a boyfriend or a husband, then asked her on a date.

She said she got away, but the then-mayor pursued her across the park, came up from behind, and put her in what became known as the "Filner headlock."

As he held McKenzie, Filner allegedly asked two other female city employees, "Isn’t she great?" He then said to all three women, "Just to let you know, I like to get really close to my city employees," according to the lawsuit.

Filner’s former communications chief, Irene McCormack Jackson, also sued the mayor and the city. The litigation was settled earlier this year for $250,000.

About 20 women came forward last year to allege that Filner made inappropriate advances toward them over his years in politics.

In a criminal case, Filner pleaded guilty to sexually harassing three women and was sentenced to probation and three months of home confinement.

The City Attorney’s Office, which is defending against the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Categories: Local San Diego News