City to pay $667K to former Filner staffer

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SAN DIEGO — The City Council Tuesday unanimously approved a settlement in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner by a woman who worked in his office.

The deal avoided a trial that had been scheduled to begin Friday in San Diego Superior Court stemming from the suit brought by Benelia Santos-Hunter, a former executive assistant on the mayor’s staff.

Under the settlement, Santos-Hunter will get $667,000  to settle all claims against the city and Filner. She and the city will split the cost of mediation services, which totaled $4,545.

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.

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.

The city previously settled some other lawsuits involving the ex-mayor, who now lives in Los Angeles.

His mayoral communications chief, Irene McCormick Jackson, settled for $250,000.

Two women, who sought the former congressman’s help with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs accepted a $99,000 payout. Michelle Tyler and Katherine Ragazzino alleged that he sought sexual favors in exchange for his assistance.

A woman who provided city assistance to seniors, Peggy Shannon, settled in exchange for an official apology and a proclamation of “Peggy Shannon Day” in the city.

Last month, a state appellate court ruled that a claim by Jeri Dynes, who alleged that Filner touched her buttocks at an event for dog owners in May 2013, was filed too late.

Filner — who 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 home detention — recently told the online publication Voice of San Diego that he “never sexually harassed anybody.”