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First civil trial in ex-San Diego mayor's sexual harassment scandal is set to begin

The first civil trial in the Bob Filner sexual harassment scandal is scheduled to begin Friday in San Diego County Superior Court.

The city and its former mayor have paid more than $1 million to settle five of the seven sexual battery and harassment lawsuits filed during the scandal, which led to Filner's resignation in August 2013.

The trial beginning Friday will focus on allegations that Filner grabbed a parks employee from behind in April 2013, put her into a headlock and rubbed her breasts.

Stacie McKenzie claims in her suit that Filner also made inappropriate comments about her appearance and about his desire to get close to her and mentor her. She is seeking $500,000 in damages.

In a response filed with the court, lawyers for San Diego and Filner have said that while the mayor's alleged actions would have been considered outside the scope of his job, the city still took immediate action upon learning of the accusations.

The trial comes about a month after the city agreed to its largest settlement in the Filner case: a $667,000 payout to former mayoral executive assistant Benelia Santos-Hunter.

Her lawsuit had described more than two dozen incidents, starting soon after she joined Filner's staff in January 2013, that included the mayor allegedly grabbing her buttocks, asking to hug and kiss her and trying to touch her breasts.

In December, a state appellate court ruled that a woman who claimed Filner had groped her in 2013 could not pursue a sexual battery lawsuit against the city because she had missed a key filing date.

Jeri Dines said Filner had rubbed and grabbed her buttocks while posing for a photo with her. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery in the case.

For that crime and two others to which he pleaded guilty, the former mayor was sentenced to three months' house arrest and three years' probation, which he is serving in Los Angeles.

The last remaining lawsuit was filed in 2014 by Marilyn McGaughy, a local advocate against domestic violence who alleges that Filner kissed, massaged and groped her and made repeated sexual comments to her.

A civil trial in that case has been tentatively scheduled to begin July 15.

Garrick writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 11, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "1st civil trial in Filner case to begin - Former San Diego mayor and city have settled five of seven lawsuits filed in sexual harassment scandal." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe