Bob Filner’s staff was upset over his behavior, meeting notes show
Meeting notes released reluctantly and under legal pressure by San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s chief of staff portray him as a tough, insulting and demeaning boss whose behavior shocked and disappointed even people who had worked for him in the past.
“People in my off[ice] crying,” according to one notation.
But the notes also suggest what may be Filner’s defense against a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former staffer: she was judged to be doing a poor job and possibly was angry that she was facing removal from her $125,000 a year post.
The notes were taken by now-Chief of Staff Lee Burdick at a June 20 “policy meeting” and a June 29 “emergency meeting.”
The notes were made public Monday as the 70-year-old Filner entered a residential treatment facility for two weeks of therapy to learn how to treat women respectfully.
Both meetings detailed in the notes were held before three former supporters -- former City Councilwoman Donna Frye and attorneys Cory Briggs and Marco Gonzalez -- held a news conference July 11 to accuse Filner of a pattern of harassing women and to demand his resignation.
Burdick, an attorney, had asserted that the notes are covered by attorney-client privilege and therefore did not have to be turned over to the city attorney. City Atty. Jan Goldsmith rejected that assertion and demanded the notes as his staff investigates possible misconduct by the mayor.
Burdick complied with Goldsmith’s demand on Monday, minutes before a deadline that Goldsmith had set to either receive the notes or he would go to court demanding them.
Notes from the June 20 meeting indicate that Allen Jones, Filner’s deputy chief of staff and a longtime supporter and confidante, told Filner that his behavior was unacceptable, morale was low and people were upset.
Jones told Filner that he would quit if Filner did not change his behavior. “Then go,” Filner is quoted as telling Jones.
The notes also indicate that Irene McCormack Jackson, then Filner’s director of communications, was also angry at his treatment of staff and mentioned an alleged comment that is now central to her lawsuit against him: that he once asked her to work without panties.
Filner, according to the notes, appeared “perplexed” and apparently did not recall ever making such a comment: “What did she mean by that?”
The June 29 meeting occurred on a Saturday, apparently as discontent among the mayor’s staff continued to build.
Filner, according to the notes, remained puzzled over the panties comment.
The notes do not always clearly indicate who is making certain comments. It appears as if Burdick said of Jackson, “I warned she shouldn’t be hired for a mgt. job. Hired above her skill set.”
The next director of communications should be able to do the job better, including writing speeches, according to the notes.
A suggestion was made at that meeting that a new system be devised for office management. That is followed by the notation: “Mayor rejected.”
Burdick was promoted to chief of staff after Vince Hall resigned in protest and former Filner congressional staffer Anthony Buckles lasted only 10 days.
Jackson, 57, a longtime San Diego journalist and employee of the port district before joining Filner’s mayoral staff, transferred to another city job. Her lawsuit, filed by attorney Gloria Allred, seeks unspecified damages against Filner and the city.
While Jackson’s is the only lawsuit against Filner, nine other women, in media interviews, have accused him of making unwanted sexual advances. None of those nine were staff members.
Allred plans a news conference Tuesday in San Diego to reveal another woman who was allegedly the target of unwanted advances: a nurse who was seeking Filner’s assistance, apparently during his years in Congress, in getting help for a Marine injured in Iraq.
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