Why Mayor's Pension Board Diversity Push Doesn't Add Up - Voice of San Diego

Bob Filner

Why Mayor's Pension Board Diversity Push Doesn't Add Up

Mayor Bob Filner’s staffers claimed he vetoed his own recent pension board appointments in an attempt to diversify the board.

It was already a strange situation.

Mayor Bob Filner vetoed his own pension board appointments 10 days after the board unexpectedly shot down $25 million in savings and left city leaders scrambling to update the budget.

When some City Council members aimed to override the mayor’s veto, Filner’s staffers claimed he’d picked new appointees to diversify what’s currently an all-male board. His new slate of proposed appointees included two women.

“He saw it as an opportunity to flesh out the board in a more diverse way,” then-Deputy Chief of Staff Lee Burdick, told Council members.

Filner’s decision to appoint women to the pension board nearly coincided with a promotion for Burdick, who was appointed the mayor’s chief of staff on Wednesday. It also falls in line with his campaign promise to ensure the city’s diversity is reflected on its boards and commissions.

But five City Council members doubted the premise that the pension board changes were simply about diversity. Still, their votes weren’t enough to override the mayor’s veto.

The mayor’s veto stands, but there are three reasons his new push for diversity doesn’t add up.

Filner was not concerned about diversity back in May.

In a May 13 memo, Filner picked four men to join the already all-male pension board.

Filner Pension Board Memo 1

Filner noted Ealy and Preovolos’ qualifications, and thanked Morgan and Kitrosser for their “expert advice and professional judgment.”

The City Council approved Filner’s selections on June 25, but Ealy was never officially sworn in.

On July 11, Ealy emailed pension system chief Mark Hovey and others to say he no longer wanted to serve on the pension board.

“Recent events and circumstances have come to my attention regarding the mayor and the San Diego City Employees Retirement System, that have caused me great consternation; enough so, that I have made the decision to withdraw my consideration to serve as a Board member for SDCERS,” Ealy wrote.

The mayor vetoed all four pension board appointments the next day.

The only current board member booted in the veto process voted against the pension bill recalculation.

Last week, the mayor sent another memo to the City Council.

Filner Pension Board Memo 2

Ealy obviously no longer made the list but Filner also nixed Morgan.

Unlike Kitrosser, who was reappointed, Morgan had voted against recalculating the city’s pension bill. In fact, he played a key role in the vote’s outcome by arguing the city should pay its full pension bill this year, thus persuading another board member to change his vote.

The result was a 6-4 vote, one short of the support necessary to recalculate the city’s pension bill and provide the anticipated city budget savings.

Morgan also publicly criticized the mayor ahead of the veto:

And in a July 12 letter, Morgan accused city officials of leaking details discussed in closed session about a lawsuit between the city and the pension system to a union leader.

As City Council members considered whether to override the mayor’s veto, Council President Todd Gloria asked Burdick whether Morgan’s vote against recalculating the city’s pension bill influenced the mayor’s decision to remove him from the pension board.

Burdick couldn’t give him a conclusive answer.

“The mayor did not share with me what his intentions were but to my knowledge, the answer would be no,” she said. Morgan is not convinced that diversity was the sole factor motivating the mayor’s move.

Councilmembers Gloria, Kevin Faulconer, Scott Sherman and Lorie Zapf each suggested there was at least an appearance of retribution.

And Morgan, for his part, issued a press release calling on the mayor to resign over the appointment debacle.

The mayor had other opportunities to diversify the board.

Filner could have added women to the board back in June but instead appointed four men.

Then Ealy said he’d prefer not to serve on the board. That’s when Filner apparently reassessed. He said Posner and Thompson, both women, should replace Ealy and Morgan. Preovolos and Kitrosser could remain on the board.

But Filner could have added two women to the board without booting Morgan.

Ealy’s spot is now up for grabs but Filner could have replaced his own designee immediately.

Currently, interim chief financial officer Greg Bych serves as the mayor’s representative on the pension board.

Board rules allow the mayor to replace him at any time, a move that might have changed the outcome of the pension vote. Ahead of the June 28 vote, Bych decided his involvement in crafting the city’s labor deals and knowledge of how the pension bill recalculation would aid the city’s budget created a conflict. So he skipped the meeting.

Gloria, who voted in favor of overriding the mayor’s veto, suggested Filner’s handling of the pension board appointments was evidence of incompetence, and perhaps retaliation.

“Diversity is nothing new to Bob Filner,” Gloria said. “Additionally, as a person of color, as a Native American- Filipino-Puerto Rican-Dutch-gay guy, diversity is not something that should be used to excuse poor behavior and to the extent that this looks like the mayor … is vetoing his own appointments it calls into question the competence of this administration.”

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