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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Courthouse News Service
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San Diego Under Fire in|Filner Harassment Trial

SAN DIEGO (CN) - Attorneys for San Diego's disgraced former Mayor Bob Filner grilled city workers Tuesday in the trial of the first sexual harassment lawsuit against him.

Deputy City Attorneys George Schaeffer and Kristin Zlotnik asked city employees about protocol involving city-mandated sexual harassment training for employees in supervisory roles.

Parks employee Stacy McKenzie sued Filner on Dec. 11, 2013, claiming that at a city event in April that year he asked her on a date, put her in the now-famous "Filner headlock" and grazed her breasts and buttocks.

The city's Chief Operating Officer Scott Chadwick testified Tuesday that a city guidebook he emailed to the mayor's office when Filner took office on Dec. 3, 2012, included information about sexual harassment, and indicated that the new mayor was to complete training.

Chadwick said he followed up with Filner's chief of staff and had a personal conversation with the mayor about completing sexual harassment training in spring 2013.

During cross-examination by McKenzie's attorney James Mitchell, Chadwick told the jury Filner had not completed sexual harassment training by April 2013, when McKenzie claims she was harassed by Filner.

By then another city employee, Benelia Santos-Hunter, claimed in a subsequent, separate lawsuit that Filner had harassed, propositioned and pawed her.

Santos-Hunter, a former executive assistant, sued the city and Filner in August 2014, and the city settled the case in February this year by paying her $667,000 .

San Diego had to cough up another $250,000 to another Filner aide in a February 2014 settlement, and $99,000 to a third woman, a disabled veteran.

By the time Filner resigned , in August 2013, 18 women had claimed he'd sexually harassed them. In December that year a Superior Court judge accepted his plea agreement to false imprisonment and battery charges, and sentenced him to 90 days of house arrest and reduced his pension.

While Filner was in office, the city did not have a procedure in place to ensure employees took the online sexual harassment training they were required to complete. But Chadwick said on Tuesday that now the city monitors the training to make sure employees complete it.

Longtime city employee Harold Barclay is manager of the Equal Employment Opportunity Office and was previously an equal employment investigator. He testified Tuesday that San Diego has several ways for employees to report discrimination or harassment. Barclay said his office did not receive any complaints about Filner before to the April 21, 2013 incident in which McKenzie says she was harassed.

Barclay said McKenzie came to his office about three months later, in mid-July, and told him what had happened.

"Ms. McKenzie told me she had heard about Mayor Filner in the news. She said she wanted her story told," Barclay told the jury.

Barclay, however, testified that McKenzie never told him that Filner had touched her breasts or buttocks. He said his office never finished its investigation because McKenzie sued.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor appeared to lose patience with city attorney Schaeffer on Tuesday, as the attorney looked through evidence he wanted to show McKenzie.

"Sir, if there is an excerpt you wish to play, just ask and it will be readily granted," Taylor told Schaeffer.

Filner's attorneys played clips from McKenzie's April 2015 deposition, in which she joked about Filner's fingers being cold "like ice sticks." On cross-examination by her own attorney Manuel Corrales she said she uses humor as a coping mechanism.

"Sometimes I use humor or joking to deal with stress or anxiety. They say laughter is the best medicine and for a short time, I get relief with humor," McKenzie said.

Filner resigned after just eight months in office.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said in February that he expects the city will pay $1 million to $1.1 million in Filner-related cases.

Closing arguments were expected Wednesday.

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