The “Bob Whisperer” is no more.
Nine days after San Diego Mayor Bob Filner hired his former congressional Chief of Staff Tony Buckles as his top aide to clean up a snowballing sexual harassment scandal, Filner announced Wednesday that Buckles was out. Filner has hired former deputy chief of staff Lee Burdick as Buckles’ replacement. Burdick, an attorney and former port commissioner, is Filner’s third chief of staff this month.
Filner’s statement announcing the switch paints Buckles’ quick departure as a planned move. Buckles only came to San Diego to help Burdick “transition” to the chief of staff job, the statement says.
Lots of evidence suggests otherwise.
Nowhere before Wednesday had there been any indication Buckles was a short-timer. Buckles’ hiring memo calls him “chief of staff” even though Filner has given numerous other staff members an “interim” tag in similar announcements. Buckles also met with City Council members last week.
“It was not Council President (Todd) Gloria’s understanding that Tony Buckles was interim in any way,” said Gloria spokeswoman Katie Keach.
“He always introduced himself as chief of staff,” said Barrett Tetlow, Councilman Scott Sherman’s chief of staff, said of Buckles. “He never said anything about interim.”
“He said he was the new chief of staff,” said David Graham, Councilman Mark Kersey’s chief of staff.
Tuesday, a former congressional campaign worker revealed she’d complained in writing to Filner and Buckles in 2005 alleging Filner publicly touched her buttocks and made crude comments. If true, Buckles knew of at least one time Filner treated a woman badly. Another woman came forward to KPBS Wednesday, alleging that in 2009 Filner repeatedly tried to kiss her while discussing congressional business.
The allegations from Filner’s congressional tenure are especially relevant.
Buckles had served as Filner’s chief of staff in Congress for at least a decade, and no formal sexual harassment accusations came out during that time. Buckles also was responsible for a new City Hall policy that keeps the mayor from meeting alone with women on city property.
That status of that policy is unclear now.
A spokesman for City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said Buckles and Burdick, who is female, were previously involved in enforcing Filner’s restrictions and Goldsmith hopes the policy would remain in place. But the spokesman didn’t say whether Filner can now meet alone with his new chief of staff.
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