I recently put in a public records request for the positions and salaries of Mayor Jerry Sanders’ media and communications staff to see if the office has grown.
The salary information provided shows that the press office’s combined salaries are $35,000 less than in 2008 and 2007 — $434,675 compared to $469,675 in the two previous years. However, that count doesn’t include former Union-Tribune columnist Gerry Braun, who took a position in September as the mayor’s director of special projects. Braun makes $140,000 a year.
Communications Director Darren Pudgil said Braun’s not considered a part of the press office and doesn’t speak on the record for the mayor.
“He does not deal directly with the media,” Pudgil said. “He has obviously been in this town a number of years and has relationships with a number of reporters and talks with them, but never on the record.”
Pudgil said Braun deals with a host of issues, including revisions to the city’s fee policy, water allocation, coordinating the closure of the community service centers and putting together the mayor’s volunteer program.
Braun also drafts speeches for Sanders, something that used to be the purview of ex-Communications Director Fred Sainz. Pudgil said the speechwriting is a “team process.” Braun also has at least in one instance sat in on a phone interview between a reporter and the city’s COO, Jay Goldstone.
The press office has let go of one of its three deputy press secretaries, Eileen Brennan, as part of the budget cuts late last year. Pudgil said the office is “inundated” with media inquiries and public records requests, as well as managing e-mail alerts and coordinating the website.
The numbers for the mayor’s press office don’t include 17 public information officers working for various city departments, including police, fire, water, stormwater, environmental services and retirement. Pudgil believes those numbers have dropped by two or three people from a few years ago, though he did not know the exact figures.
Pudgil said those public information officers don’t necessarily talk a lot to the press and are responsible more for community outreach.
“Some are considered PIOs who communicate with the media,” Pudgil said, “some are more communications-oriented working on websites and brochures.”