While the mayor’s away on a Chamber of Commerce mission in Mexico City, the contentious cat-and-mouse drama of municipal government remained in full swing Tuesday.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, with whom Bob Filner is now engaged in an open political range war, is questioning the legality of an attorney – Lee Burdick – being retained on the mayor’s staff.
“We notice the mayor’s proposed budget includes a director of special projects and legal affairs within the mayor’s office,” Asst. City Attorney Mary Jo Lanzafame told City Council members during an afternoon budget briefing.
“This raises legal concerns to us,” Lanzafame continued, “and, we believe, creates confusion.”
She cited legal memoranda dating back to 1977 and issued as recently as 2010.
Burdick, a former Port commissioner, was a onetime rival of Goldsmith during the 2008 primary election race for city attorney.
Asked to elaborate on the issue, Goldsmith spokesman Jonathan Heller replied: “Jan said he has nothing to add at this time beyond what Mary Jo said from the dais, except to say our office would be issuing an opinion on this matter soon.”
The inquiry into Burdick’s status follows Filner’s proposal to cut $1.4 million, or 13 full-time positions, from the city attorney’s fiscal 2013-14 budget.
Among the targeted positions is that of Executive Asst. City Attorney Andrew Jones, who’s just gone public with indignation over a recent Filner remark ordering him to “sit in the back of the room” during a dressing-down in a closed Council session.
“To me it was tantamount to asking Rosa Parks to sit in the back of the bus,” Jones told NBC 7 in an interview Monday. "I didn't sit in the back of the bus. In fact, I sat at the table."
Meantime, during the budget briefing, mayoral chief of staff Vince Hall warned council members that reaching a five-year wage-and-benefit agreement with city labor unions was an uncertain prospect – apparently owing to the political climate at City Hall.
“This is an absolute no-brainer, a win-win-win for the city, for the General Fund, for the taxpayers, for the employees,” Hall said. “And the rather outrageous statement was made to me that the fiscally responsible thing to do is to not save $20 million a year. And I can’t speak for the council. I can only speak for the mayor. And I tell you that the mayor wants to protect the General Fund, he wants to realize the savings that can be achieved through a five-year agreement. He believes there is no credible argument to the achievement of a five-year deal other than politics. And that is an extremely unfortunate situation that we seem to find ourselves (in).”
Councilwoman Sherri Lightner -- who had asked what’s holding up a deal -- pronounced herself “quite frustrated with the willingness to leave money on the table, of some of my colleagues.”