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Fact Check: The City Chief's Contract

Mayor Bob Filner said his new chief operating officer originally received a $75,000 contract. It was for twice that amount.

Image: RATINGStatement: Former San Diego County Chief Administrative Officer Walt “Ekard began work this month and has a contract through the end of June for $75,000,” Mayor Bob Filner said in an April 24 press release.

Determination: Misleading

Analysis: Filner’s formal relationship with current Chief Operating Officer Walt Ekard began with a consultant contract. Filner had long wanted Ekard to help him manage the city, and brought the well-respected local administrator to City Hall in April as a consultant.

Filner celebrated the move in a press release, saying San Diego could be the best-run city in the country. He noted that Ekard’s contract ran through the end of June and was worth $75,000. Except that it wasn’t.

Ekard’s contract, which he signed April 11, was actually up to five times longer and worth twice the amount of money Filner described. The contract called for Ekard to consult on city management through June 2014 for $150,000.

Scott Chadwick, the city’s assistant chief operating officer, said Tuesday that Ekard’s contract was split in two. He was to be paid up to $75,000 in the 2013 fiscal year, and the other $75,000 the following year. That’s where the $75,000 figure the mayor cited came from, Chadwick said.

But Chadwick didn’t know why Filner’s office would say Ekard’s contract was worth only half of what it was.

“That I’m unsure of,” Chadwick said. “I can’t respond to that.”

Filner’s original claim in the April 24 press release fits our definition of a Misleading statement. It takes an element of truth – the $75,000 value of Ekard’s contract through the end of the fiscal year – but leaves the deceptive impression that it was the total amount.

Ekard’s status with the city matters because he’s now San Diego’s top administrator. Once the sexual harassment scandal involving Filner broke, the mayor hired Ekard to work as his chief operating office full time for a $275,000 annual salary. Chadwick said he didn’t know immediately how much money was spent on Ekard’s consultant contract before he took the new job.

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