Filner Faces New Sexual Harassment Claim
SAN DIEGO (CN) - A former Bob Filner staffer sued disgraced ex-San Diego mayor, adding to the long list of women who've accused the politician of sexual harassment and assault.
Former executive assistant Benelia Santos-Hunter, 50, sued the City of San Diego and Filner, 71 in Superior Court last Friday after the city rejected her $1.5 million claim.
She says she worked for the mayor from December 2012 until his resignation in August 2013.
According to the filing, during Santos-Hunter's time at the mayor's office Filner "embarked on an aggressive campaign of sexual harassment and intimidation."
The former staffer makes multiple allegations against her former boss.
In one incident on Valentine's Day 2013, Filner told her "'you need me as your lover'" and "'Be my Valentine,'" she claims.
On other occasions, Filner asked to see her legs and told her "'I am so good at sex,'" the lawsuit states.
Like other women who came forward, the ex-staffer claims that Filner had trouble keeping his hands to himself.
On Feb. 25, 2013, she says, Filner asked if he could kiss her and tried to touch her breasts. The following month, he tried to get her to put her hand on his penis, and in a separate incident asked her to take her dress off, and placed his hands on her behind.
Filner asked Santos-Hunter to kiss and hug him and propositioned her for sex, she says.
"On or about May 14, 2013, Filner approached plaintiff in the city's conference room, forcefully grabbed her head and held her in a headlock. Filner did not let plaintiff escape. Plaintiff was afraid and traumatized. Plaintiff was finally able to wiggle away from defendant," the lawsuit states.
Santos-Hunter says Filner asked her to go on a business trip with him to China and threatened to fire her if she refused. She says that when she complained to city executive Scott Chadwick, he told her: "'It is not illegal to be an asshole. Is there anything else?' or words to that effect."
Filner made national headlines last year when Irene McCormack Jackson, made similar sexual harassment claims. McCormack was among numerous women who came forward with allegations, leading to the mayor's resignation in August 2013. The city settled with her for $250,000 earlier this year.
A veteran journalist and former executive for the Port of San Diego, McCormack Jackson claimed Filner asked her to work without panties, dragged her around in a "Filner headlock" and whispered sexual comments in her ear.
In a second lawsuit, City parks official Stacy McKenzie claimed Filner touched her breasts and subjected her to his signature headlock. Filner was deposed this week in that case.
Disabled veteran Katherine Ragazzino and her nurse Michelle Tyler filed a sexual harassment claim against San Diego and Filner, claiming the mayor offered to help the disabled vet if Tyler performed sexual favors for him.
Filner pleaded guilty in October 2013 to a felony charge of grabbing a woman in a headlock. Prosecutors filed misdemeanor battery charges, alleging that Filner kissed one victim and grabbed another woman by the buttocks.
Superior Court Judge Robert Trentacosta on Dec. 9 ordered Filner to wear a GPS monitor and spend 90 days under house arrest. The judge cut the Democrat's pension and ordered him to pay a $1,500 fine. Filner cannot run for political office during his three years of probation but avoided jail time.
Santos-Hunter is represented by Joshua Gruenberg, who told the Los Angeles Times that Filner "acted creepy toward a lot of women.""Benelia felt trapped, she had to put up with Filner to keep her job," Gruenberg said.