Former San Diego Councilwoman Donna Frye soon quit her post as Mayor Bob Filner’s Open Government Director, then led demands that he go
Upon winning election as San Diego’s mayor last November, Bob Filner announced he would appoint former City Council Member Donna Frye to a new post: Director of Open Government. She was the logical choice, if anyone, to fill that role given her leadership on the council for greater transparency and public involvement—walking out of closed sessions, for example, to protest their use for discussions that should have been public. By the end of February Frye was also coincidentally elected as President of Californians Aware, of which she was a charter member of its board of directors.
But she had also come to realize that her city position had absolutely no power to make its government more open. On the contrary, decisions on what and how much information would be released to requesters under the California Public Records Act were carefully walled off from her; a staff strategy session on which information would be withheld was conducted behind her back. Before long she resigned, offering as a figleaf to spare Filner embarrassment the public explanation that she wanted to spend more time in her CalAware role. She gave the mayor that consideration because she had worked so hard to get him elected and was convinced he was still a great plus for progressive leadership of the city, after many years of Republican mayors. She had heard rumors about his behavior toward women, but so had many people, and they were no more than rumors.
Then, no longer at city hall, she began to hear more. The full story of how she and two other former Filner stalwarts came to lead the drive for his resignation is told here.
UPDATE: The following is the text of Donna Frye’s resignation letter submitted to Mayor Filner’s then chief of staff, Vince Hall.
April 2, 2013
I am writing this note to let you know my reasons for leaving employment with the Mayor at the end of today. I plan to continue my open government work elsewhere and remain committed to assisting the Filner administration as I am able.
I welcomed the opportunity to work with Bob the first hundred days. Like you, I am thrilled at the philosophical change in the city’s highest office. I appreciated the opportunity to work with you, Bob and all the Mayor’s staff. They are an amazing group of people.
However, the work of open government has become too narrowly defined for me to successfully meet the public’s or my expectations of what I am supposed to be doing. Last Friday you informed me that I am not to concern myself with the Brown Act, specifically related to educating and encouraging community groups or business improvement districts to comply with that law. It is not reasonable to create an open government position and expect that I can make a success of it without allowing me to address the Brown Act’s requirements at all levels of government under the Mayor’s supervision.
Second, and more problematic, I again raised with you this past Thursday, my concerns about rumors that the Mayor may be involved with women other than his fiancée. While I have no first-hand knowledge beyond his flirting, those who have spoken to me are credible supporters of his and would not make the allegations lightly or without some cause for concern. I was also troubled by your response (to immediately fire any staff if they are raising such concerns) when I brought this to your attention. Hearing that, I cannot continue to stay and be part of an administration that seems to have no real response as to whether these allegations are true.
Just as the Mayor’s staff has obligations to behave in a manner that is responsible and appropriate, so too does the Mayor. I hope that both of you will take to heart what I am saying and deal with it.