Donna Frye's New Job in Bob Filner's City Hall Hits Legal Snag

One of the first positions Mayor-Elect Bob Filner wants to fill has hit a legal snag over the issue of double-dipping.

After the November 6th election, Filner promised to make San Diego’s city government more transparent.

He wants former City Councilmember Donna Frye to fill a new position in his administration – Director of Open Government and Community Engagement.

Frye has been a long-time advocate for transparency in government.

But Frye receives a pension from the city and according to a city ordinance, once retired from the city a person can only return as a provisional employee. That employee cannot be paid for working more than 90 days a year.

“That’s the law,” Filner said Monday. “We’re just trying to decide whether, for example, we could as the city council to waive – because the law was not passed for this situation. The law was passed to reform double-dipping.”

“She doesn’t want and she would not ever double dip so she would take the position without any benefits,” Filner said.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the law can be changed but there may be some nuances because it’s part of the pension laws.

“We face the same issue when we try to hire back lawyers,” said Goldsmith. “Some of our lawyers who retired are terrific, I’d love to have them back, so we hire them back on a provisional basis.”

The election of Mayor Jerry Sanders was an exception. Even though Sanders was a retiree when he took office, the code allowed the former police chief to continue drawing his pension because he was elected to office by voters.

Goldsmith said his office would look into it if requested to do so by the city council or the mayor.

A spokesperson for San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System told NBC 7 San Diego the City Council could ammend the Municipal Code.

Filner says Frye will begin work for the city as a provisional employee for 90 days until matters can be sorted out.

Frye earns approximately $27,000 a year from her pension before taxes.

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