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Florida mayor solicited sex for speed bumps, ethics panel finds

David Stewart has been the mayor of Lantana, Florida, since 2000.
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A Florida mayor is accused of soliciting sex from a constituent in exchange for speed bumps, according to the Florida Commission on Ethics and local reports.

In a press release on Oct. 24, the commission found that there was probable cause to find that David Stewart, the mayor of Lantana, Florida, "misused his position to attempt to obtain a sexual benefit for himself."

Stewart solicited sex from a constituent "based on an understanding his vote, official action, or judgment would be influenced," the commission said.

Catherine Padilla, 54, a caregiver for the elderly who has lived in Lantana since 1984, filed two complaints this year that Stewart had made a sexual innuendo at her during a banquet and that he had solicited sex for the speed bumps, according to documents from the commission.

The commission dismissed the complaint about the innuendo in June, but went forward with the complaint about the speed bumps.

Mark Herron, an attorney representing Stewart, said his client denies Padilla's allegations and plans to move forward with a trial to clear his name.

"This is a case of 'he said, she said,' and the commission is unable to address these issues at probable cause hearing," Herron said. "We're going to let a judge judge the credibility of witnesses."

But Padilla said she wants an admission from Stewart, an apology and to protect other women in Lantana.

"He's the mayor and he thinks he hasn’t done anything wrong and acts like he's the victim," she told NBC News

Padilla said she befriended the mayor three years ago while advocating for speed bumps on her street, which is down the road from an elementary and middle school, she said.

She said she saw people speeding down the road creating "treacherous conditions" for the children. But after one lunch with Stewart, she claims he drove her to a motel and suggested they "occupy a room" together, according to documents from the commission.

She says she declined his advances and Stewart brought Padilla home. Padilla says she repeatedly received calls from Stewart telling her she could still change her mind and sleep with him in exchange for the speed bumps.

Padilla claims Stewart called her on the day she was supposed to bring her case to Lantana officials and propositioned her again.

"I said, 'Absolutely not. I'll take my chances." And I went to plead my case and I said why we would like these speed bumps. It was unanimous. We were granted speed bumps," Padilla said.

Padilla said the following day Stewart called her and said she should thank him. When she refused, she claims he threatened to take the speed bumps away.

"I thought all my efforts were for nothing because I didn’t have sex with him and because he's angry he’s gonna take speed bumps away," Padilla said, adding that a few months later the speed bumps were installed.

Stewart said in a formal response to the commission that he did have lunch with Padilla but that he never propositioned her for sex at any time.

Stewart, who has been the Lantana mayor since 200, also said in the response that he did not have the power to approve or remove speed bumps and that Padilla was aware of that fact.

Herron said Stewart has no plans to step down, but Padilla believes that is what is needed for her to get closure on the situation.

Stewart has the option to settle the case or to agree to a trial. If it is found he violated Florida statutes, his punishment could be as severe as removal from office. But Kerrie Stillman, a spokesperson for the Florida Commission on Ethics, said the most common penalty is a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation.

"He needs to step down for the safety and well-being of the town so women don’t have to go through that again," Padilla said. "People in power shouldn't do this to other people."