Lee Burdick can’t find a job. She’s gone through her savings and retirement accounts. She’s at a loss as to where to turn next.
Once a high-flying insider — she was a successful lawyer and a Port of San Diego commissioner— it all went south after she took a job she hoped would be one of the most dynamic and important of her career.
It lasted nine months. That’s how long her boss, Bob Filner, managed to hang on as mayor of San Diego.
Until he was bounced for being a creep and a criminal.
Burdick thinks she’s been blacklisted — made a pariah — because of that association.
“I sit here in kind in awe,” she said. “It’s like waiting for the tsunami to end.”
As the first Democrat to be elected mayor of San Diego in two decades, Filner brought a lot of hope into the office, which attracted some of the best and brightest progressives in the region. His abrupt departure, however, threw a wrench into some of their careers. Our City reached out to 12 of his most prominent staffers to find out where they are now and how their time with Filner impacted them.
Burdick served as Filner’s director of special projects and legal affairs. She had not met Filner previously, but thought the opportunity to work on his staff was too good to pass up.
A progressive, she thought she would be involved in some of the most radical changes to come to San Diego in years. She was inspired by Filner’s call to put neighborhoods first and help the disadvantaged.
However, Filner’s reign was chaotic and short-lived, doomed by accusations from nearly 20 women that he made improper sexual advances toward them. Several sued.
Burdick hung onto the bitter end. She had risen to chief of staff to fill the void made when others fled. Some criticized Burdick for doing so. Some have called her an enabler.
She refutes all of that, saying she was simply trying to protect the staff, both from the mayor’s behavior and from city officials who smelled blood in the water and wanted Filner out. Staffers were being hounded to give accounts of Filner’s behavior, she said.
“It was like a bunker mentality,” she said. “It was us against the world.”
She has since written a book called, “Bob Filner’s Monster,” which recounts her time working with the mayor and the shocking behavior she witnessed. She’s hoping it helps people better understand how the scandal unfolded and her role in it.
“A lot of people are quick to judgment,” she said. “They really had no clue.”
Because she’s a trained lawyer, she wanted to see evidence before she was able to decide whether Filner’s acts were criminal, she said. She knew he was crass, but that didn’t necessary make him unfit for office. However, a staffer came to her later and told her that Filner had crossed the line. She reported it to both the human resources department and the city attorney.
“If I’m guilty of anything it’s being late to come to the right conclusion,” she said.
After Filner’s resignation, she was let go by interim Mayor Todd Gloria. She then sought isolation, she said.
“I needed it to recover.” Now living in Fresno, she has gone public in hopes of restoring her reputation.
“I want to find an opportunity to come back to San Diego,” she said. “I also realize that an opportunity may never come up in San Diego.”
He was Filner’s first chief of staff. It was a short-lived gig, less than seven months. He announced his resignation on Twitter, following the first wave of sexual harassment allegations aimed at Filner.
“As a lifelong activist for women’s rights and equality, I feel I must resign effective today,” Hall wrote.
Today, he’s executive director of Future of California Elections, which focuses on addressing challenges facing California’s election system. His staff bio makes no mention of his time with Filner. He could not be reached for comment.
He was Filner’s assistant chief operating officer. Like Burdick, he was also let go by Gloria after he assumed office.
He now works as the senior advisor to the Santa Monica city manager on airport affairs. Before that, he worked as city manager at Carson, the city where the Chargers had hoped to move. He was fired from that post — the third to be let go in a 20-month span.
Hernandez responded to email questions, saying he’s had no problem finding work.
“My qualifications and experience in public administration transcend my one year with Filner,” he wrote.
However, finding work in San Diego has proved difficult.
“I tried and it is impossible. I think it says a lot about the political establishment in San Diego. Hence, I moved back to my native Los Angeles where I found work in public administration with no problem.”
He doesn’t shy from his association with Filner. “I don’t hide my time with Mayor Filner. I learned a lot and it makes me a more valuable employee. Actually I use it assure employers that I have experience in crises situations and I am steady. “
Hadley was Filner’s deputy director of open government. He now works as a council representative for Lorie Zaph, who holds the District 2 Council seat. On his bio, he lists the numerous positions he’s held, including the one with Filner.
He’s had no problem finding work, he said in an email response to questions. “No. I left Filner’s office at the end of April 2015 along with Donna Frye, who left earlier that month, and later helped her call for his resignation. So, I have never been identified with him.”
Since leaving that post, he’s worked for Gloria, former Council member Ed Harris and Council President Sherri Lightner.
She worked as Filner’s director of appointments, public records requests and compliance. She still works for the city as the public records act coordinator.
“I have not had problems professionally because of what turned out to be a very brief involvement with the Filner Administration,” she wrote in an email. “I was transferred to another department about four months in. I have remained with the City of San Diego ever since.”
She’s also an adjunct professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Her bio makes no mention of her time with Filner, but it does note how she worked for former City Councilman Anthony Young.
The Filner exclusion in not intentional, she said. “I have been with the City over 16 years now and do not list every position I have held.”
Irene McCormack Jackson
She was Filner’s director of communications who was the first women to file a lawsuit against the city for Filner’s actions. The city settled the case for $250,000.
She could not be reached for comment. On her LinkedIn profile, she lists her current position as a self-employed consultant.
She served as director of community outreach until her firing by Gloria. She could not be reached for comment.
According to her LinkedIn profile, she is the principal of Perine Investments. She also makes note of her stint as director of community outreach for the Office of the Mayor (8 months) but does not mention Filner’s name.
Chase was Filner’s protocol officer. Today, she works as the campaign manager for Chris Ward, who’s running for the District 3 City Council seat.
Both Chase and Ward were among the 21 honorees Our City named as future leaders to watch.
Chase declined comment. Ward said he had no qualms about hiring Chase, who also makes no mention of Filner in her LinkedIn profile. She simply notes how she worked for the Mayor’s Office.
Ward wrote: “Molly demonstrated immense poise, good ethics, and dedication to the Office of the Mayor during a difficult period. That was noticed and appreciated by Todd Gloria who worked closely with her during his time as Interim Mayor.”
Ward noted how Gloria then hired Chase to work in his district office after his interim mayoral stint was complete.
He was Filner’s director of neighborhood revitalization. He now serves as chair of the San Diego Chapter of the Black Political Association of California. He could not be reached for comment.
Lopez served as Filner’s director of bi-national affairs and opened San Diego’s first permanent office in Tijuana. Gloria retained him and Lopez stayed on until 2014. On his LinkedIn site, he notes he is the owner of The Border Group, a consulting firm. He could not be reached for comment.