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San Diego City Council President Ben Hueso has hired three new employees — all of whom worked on his or his older brother’s recent campaigns — for the final month of his term.
Hueso hired the employees to work in his office after Election Day all at a salary of $2,308 every two weeks.
The three new Hueso employees, Christopher Duggan, Jacob O’Neill and Willie Rells, all worked or volunteered for Hueso’s successful bid for state assembly or the failed council campaign of Hueso’s older brother, Felipe. O’Neill was Felipe Hueso’s campaign manager.
Hueso’s spokeswoman, Michelle Ganon, said all the new hires were necessary to do “high-priority, time-sensitive work.” Duggan and O’Neill had been council staffers previously.
Ganon said Duggan would be working on the cross-border airport terminal, O’Neill is working on the Mercado development project and Rells would be archiving.
Asked if it was appropriate to hire the manager of his brother’s campaign Ganon said, “I think it’s appropriate to hire somebody who has the expertise to the job that needs to be done.”
David Alvarez, who defeated Felipe Hueso and will be taking over Ben Hueso’s District 8 seat in December, questioned the hires, especially as the city faced a $70 million-plus budget deficit that is threatening police and fire services.
“For three weeks, where’s the work?” Alvarez asked. “It’s kind of concerning when we’re making all the other sorts of cuts and decisions about police and fire. I would definitely think that you have to look twice and think twice before you hire someone.”
Alvarez is inheriting Hueso’s office budget, but said he’s been assured the hires won’t affect his ability to pick his own staff.
I asked Ganon whether the hires were made to drain the council budget before Alvarez took office.
“That’s obnoxious,” she said. “No, it’s not to drain a budget.”
Ben Hueso was a strong supporter of his brother’s attempt to succeed him and close connections between the brothers led to controversy during the campaign. In the week before the election, an independent committee supporting Felipe Hueso’s council campaign returned a $25,000 donation from Ben Hueso’s state assembly campaign after the Union-Tribune raised questions about its legality.