The Major Casualties of #FilnerEverywhere: Mayoral Schedulers

Bob Filner

The Major Casualties of #FilnerEverywhere: Mayoral Schedulers

Three staffers who handled Mayor Bob Filner’s schedule left the mayor’s office after just weeks on the job.

Mayor Bob Filner’s proclivity to show up anywhere and everywhere might be the driving force behind some professional casualties.

So far during Filner’s tenure, three staffers tasked with scheduling the mayor’s appearances left their jobs after just weeks.

Two were out of their jobs after just 33 days each. A longtime scheduler for former City Councilman Tony Young lasted a bit longer — she left after about two months working for the mayor.

The latter staffer, Brenda Lugo, was one of about two dozen Filner introduced at a January press conference where he touted the diversity of his new hires.

Since then, at least three of those staffers no longer work for Filner and at least four brought on after the press conference have also departed, according to documents obtained from a public records request.

They include constituent affairs manager Shalen Maharaj, open government director Donna Frye and Rob Wilder, who served as the mayor’s public advocate for energy and climate sustainability.

Some city leaders who served under former Mayor Jerry Sanders have left, too. They include Financial Management Director Mark Leonard, Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone and soon, Development Services Director Kelly Broughton.

The three schedulers, among the staffers who work mostly closely with the mayor, made the swiftest departures.

The former administrative staffers — Lugo, Nancy Contreras and Loretta Martinez — could not be reached for comment. A mayor’s office spokeswoman declined to comment and would not say whether the staffers were fired or quit.

One of Filner’s longtime congressional schedulers acknowledges their jobs weren’t easy, particularly with Filner as boss.

Nora May spent 15 years working as Filner’s San Diego-area scheduler before stepping down in July.

She said the former congressman had a specific system for scheduling and it involved him personally signing off on every event, a practice that clashes with that of Filner’s more recent predecessors.

“It’s sort of like the Bob Filner boot camp,” May said. “It’s tough but once you have the system down … ”

For May, it was a daily ritual. She took calls from potential event hosts, wrote down relevant information and requested an email listing the same. Then she recorded the time, location and another dozen details in a separate document.

Filner received copies of that scheduling paperwork every day. He marked up each sheet with a blue felt-tip pen, sometimes leaving questions and other times just his OK.

“Bob is very detailed-oriented and all the pieces have to fit,” May said.

Sometimes Filner circumvented his own system. He’d learn of a gathering long after his schedule was set and demand his plans be reworked.

May suspects the invitations — and the number of last-minute additions — have significantly increased since Filner became mayor.

That’s unsurprising.

Representatives aren’t tethered to daily acts of governing outside of House of Representatives votes. Though they field plenty of event invitations, they often show up at community gatherings and press conferences to remain relevant.

A mayor has hundreds of people vying for his attention. Council members, community leaders, city staffers and local groups all want the mayor’s ear and his time.

Filner has responded to their invitations with constant public appearances.

Filner has acknowledged he can be a demanding manager.

At the January press conference, he referred to himself as a “pretty hard driver of people.”

May also conceded Filner can be a “difficult person” but commended his commitment to his constituents and his jam-packed schedule.

“He’s always out there for that little guy,” she said.

The three staffers who left the city likely didn’t master Filner’s scheduling processes, she said. “I would think these people just couldn’t seem to get the system down.”

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