$25K City Consultant Job Includes Mayoral ‘Coaching’

$25K City Consultant Job Includes Mayoral ‘Coaching’

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Mayor Bob Filner and Chief of Staff Lee Burdick

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has hired an executive consultant to help his office, a role that includes personal coaching.

Filner hired Justin Gittelman, a La Jolla-based management consultant, for $25,000 in city funds for up to a year of work. Gittelman’s job is to create a strategic plan to better the performance of the mayor’s office. The contract calls for professional, staff and organizational development for the mayor’s staff and “individual coaching with Mayor Filner.”

“The focus of every coaching session, training engagement, and developmental conversation is to acquire and refine knowledge, skills, and abilities to improve performance creating operational excellence,” the contract reads. “Areas to be focused include the following: Leadership, Communication, Delegation, Goal Achievement. Staff Development, Scheduling, Press Operation, and Process Improvement.”

Voice of San Diego obtained Gittelman’s contract through a public records request. The copy is unsigned and undated, so it’s unclear when he began working.

Current Chief of Staff Lee Burdick references Gittelman multiple times in her handwritten notes from a June 29 strategy meeting released Monday afternoon. Burdick wrote Gittelman proposed new communications and scheduling ideas. Filner rejected Gittelman’s scheduling plan, she wrote.

Two former top Filner deputies, Vince Hall and Allen Jones, have complained that Filner ran a “dehumanizing” and “abusive” office even before the sexual harassment scandal came to light. Hall said Gittelman tried to help Filner deal with his bullying.

“I know [Gittelman's] been working very intensively on these issues,” Hall, Filner’s former chief of staff, said Friday.

Hall also said that former San Diego County chief Walt Ekard had tried to assist Filner with the same problems. Filner hired Ekard on a $75,000, three-month consulting contract before appointing him chief operating officer last month.

Gittelman declined to discuss his relationship with Filner or the city.

“As for right now, I have no comment on the mayor,” Gittelman said Monday.

In September, Gittelman self-published a business executive training book called “Whole Mind Thinking,” which provides advice on organizational alignment and boosting performance. Gittelman did not donate to Filner’s mayoral campaign, but the Facebook page for “Whole Mind Thinking” includes an October photo of Gittelman and Filner holding a copy of the book.

Update, Aug. 6: A signed and dated copy of the contract reveals the consultant’s scope of services changed slightly from the previous version of the contract.

Gittelman is required to have two individual coaching sessions with Filner every month, according to the signed contract. He also committed to 96 hours of work over the year-long life of the contract, meaning his hourly rate is $260. Gittelman began work May 1.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

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11 comments
CEO - SD
CEO - SD

Gittelman is a collaborative leader in the field of corporate training and development. His style is direct and honest. His company has positively improved our leadership and employee effectiveness. I find his services to be well received throughout our entire organization.

catmattice
catmattice

I served on the board of directors for a local nonprofit organization with Justin Gittelman. He was a bully - he was condescending, disrespectful, argumentative and defensive. After several officers came to together to have him removed from the board specifically because of his bullying, he resigned. Given that fact, it is my own humble opinion that he does not have the right tools to coach someone else out of being a bully.

Steve Yuhas
Steve Yuhas

Oy gevalt. Filner leaves victims in his wake no matter where he goes. Poor Gittelman will have to pull his shingle in until the heat dies down. At the very least he'll pretend this contract never happened.

Steve Yuhas
Steve Yuhas subscriber

Oy gevalt. Filner leaves victims in his wake no matter where he goes. Poor Gittelman will have to pull his shingle in until the heat dies down. At the very least he'll pretend this contract never happened.

Andrew Poat
Andrew Poat

Thank you for your welcome focus on the MECHANICS of how San Diego City government works. I have long thought that the first thing I would do if elected Mayor or City Manger would be to call in some people with experience running the White House to understand how they manage a team of highly visible people (President, VP and cabinet members) to coordinate goals, strategy and message across areas as diverse as economic performance and development, defense and global security and environment. The Mayor's office is still in transition to realize the "strong Mayor" format voters adopted several years ago. While I appreciate business consultants such as the one referenced in your article,I can say from personal experience in the Office of California's governor that running an executive branch of government is a far different set of circumstances than those applied to a typical business. This is about institution building - something the County has done well - and that I hope Mr. Ekard can accomplish during his stay with the City. Bringing in someone with experience at the White House or Pentagon coordination offices would be my suggested next step.

Andrew Poat
Andrew Poat subscriber

Thank you for your welcome focus on the MECHANICS of how San Diego City government works. I have long thought that the first thing I would do if elected Mayor or City Manger would be to call in some people with experience running the White House to understand how they manage a team of highly visible people (President, VP and cabinet members) to coordinate goals, strategy and message across areas as diverse as economic performance and development, defense and global security and environment. The Mayor's office is still in transition to realize the "strong Mayor" format voters adopted several years ago. While I appreciate business consultants such as the one referenced in your article,I can say from personal experience in the Office of California's governor that running an executive branch of government is a far different set of circumstances than those applied to a typical business. This is about institution building - something the County has done well - and that I hope Mr. Ekard can accomplish during his stay with the City. Bringing in someone with experience at the White House or Pentagon coordination offices would be my suggested next step.

John Pilch
John Pilch

Hope it's the Mayor's private funding paying for this rather than taxpayer funds. Otherwise, it's RUBBISH!

John Pilch
John Pilch subscriber

Hope it's the Mayor's private funding paying for this rather than taxpayer funds. Otherwise, it's RUBBISH!

Christopher Crotty
Christopher Crotty

"Filner rejected Gittelman’s scheduling plan." That's all you need to know.

don lindsay
don lindsay

so one by one filner is using taxpayer money to try to both do his job & to spin his image. Same thing tv shill Lena Lewis was hired for. Meanwhile taxpayers are seeing their tax money, 10's & 10's of thousands, going down the drain for something that simply can't be done...making bob filner look good.

don lindsay
don lindsay subscriber

so one by one filner is using taxpayer money to try to both do his job & to spin his image. Same thing tv shill Lena Lewis was hired for. Meanwhile taxpayers are seeing their tax money, 10's & 10's of thousands, going down the drain for something that simply can't be done...making bob filner look good.