- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

SAN DIEGO (AP) - The city of San Diego on Tuesday agreed to pay $667,000 to former Mayor Bob Filner’s executive assistant, who said her boss repeatedly tried to hug and kiss her, locked her in a kitchen and proposed sex on a conference table.

The settlement, approved unanimously by the City Council one day after it was set for trial, marks the largest payout to any of the many women who accused Filner of unwanted advances during his eight-month stint as mayor. It surpasses the $250,000 the city paid Filner’s communications director, whose disclosures sparked a major scandal that forced Filner to resign in August 2013.

Benelia Santos-Hunter, who had an adjoining office to the mayor, fought tears at a news conference as she thanked family, friends and city employees. “It was very, very difficult to speak up, but it was the right thing to do,” she said.

Asked why she didn’t speak up when Filner’s behavior persisted, she said, “I needed a job.”

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said he anticipated San Diego will pay a total of about $1 million to settle Filner-related lawsuits. Four have been settled and two remain.

Nearly two dozen women publicly reported unwanted advances by the city’s first Democratic mayor in two decades, fueling cries from national party leaders and others that he resign. The former congressman relented after weeks of pressure, facing a recall effort and the prospect of heavy legal fees.

Santos-Hunter’s lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court alleges the harassment began in February 2013 when the mayor attempted to hug and kiss her and said, “You need me as your lover.” The mayor allegedly made similar advances over several months in front of top aides, proposing sex and commenting on her body.

Filner allegedly locked Santos-Hunter in the office kitchen in May 2013 and asked to “make love.” That same month, he is accused of putting her in a headlock and twice proposing sex on a conference table.

Goldsmith, whose office represented Filner as part of his agreement with the city to resign and appeared with Santos-Hunter at the news conference, said the former aide offered compelling evidence. Filner’s personal attorney, Harvey Berger, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Filner told Voice of San Diego in an interview published last month that he never sexually harassed anyone.

“When you look at what, quote, I was charged with, you know, it was, really, nothing illegal and it was just an attempt of the establishment to take back their city, which they did,” he said in the interview.

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