SAN DIEGO — A complicating factor was revealed Thursday in Mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer's nomination of Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman to become the first woman in Police Department history to be chief.
Zimmerman, 54, a 31-year veteran of the department, signed a pension plan in 2013 that will require her to retire by March 1, 2018. The agreement is binding and cannot be ended.
Nothing was mentioned Wednesday by Faulconer that Zimmerman's tenure could not be longer than four years. News that Zimmerman had signed on for the controversial pension program was revealed by the San Diego Reader.
Faulconer's nomination of Zimmerman to succeed Chief Bill Lansdowne is set to be considered Tuesday by the City Council. The nomination needs five votes to be approved.
Late Thursday afternoon, a spokesman for the mayor-elect said Faulconer was aware that Zimmerman was part of the DROP program before he decided to nominate her. Later, Faulconer issued a statement.
"I am confident she will do a fantastic job over the next four years and take action to ensure public confidence and trust in the Police Department for years to come," Faulconer said in the statement.
But at Wednesday's news conference announcing his intention to nominate Zimmerman, Faulconer did not mention the phrase "next four years."
Lansdowne is set to retire Monday, the same day that Faulconer is scheduled to be sworn in to serve the remaining 33 months of the term of Bob Filner, who resigned Aug. 30 amid allegations that he sexually harassed women.
Under the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP), employees sign an agreement to retire in five years.
They continue to receive their salaries and, simultaneously, pension payments are deposited in an interest-bearing account which they can only withdraw when they retire.
During the height of the city's fiscal problems due to a spiraling pension deficit, DROP was frequently cited by council members and others as a kind of lavish largess that the city could not afford.
The program was ended for new hires in 2005.
Acting Mayor Todd Gloria had called for the city to make a nationwide search to find a successor for Lansdowne, whose resignation decision was announced Tuesday.
But Faulconer, in nominating Zimmerman, said the city and Police Department could not wait for permanent leadership during the many months of such a search.
Under the DROP program, a retiree can only return as a temporary employee 90 days a year.