The gluttonous Willie Brown era lead to a city workforce of mangers who earned princely salaries in exchange for their political loyalty, but appeared to have little in the way of clear job responsibilities.
The cries for reform from auditors and other watchdogs eventually fueled the creation of a Management Classification and Compensation Plan designed to both streamline the city’s hiring process and trim a top-heavy class of department managers.
The process has been slow and complex, to put it lightly. But one way to measure its effectiveness so far may be to consider the complaints coming from political hacks bitter about losing status on the city’s totem pole.
In April, the Guardian reported that former board supervisor Bill Maher, now a “regulatory affairs manager” at the San Francisco International Airport, seemed to have difficulty showing up for work even half the time, according to documents we’d obtained that tracked his usage of a complimentary airport parking card included in his compensation package.
Maher was a Willie Brown political ally who earned his $95,000-a-year post at the airport in 1998 under the former mayor. Since then, he’s managed to hang on to the job and sail through more $30,000 in raises, to $128,000, despite a dubious job description.
But when the human resources department set its sights on Maher’s job through an MCCP review, he was knocked back from a Manager V position to Manager III in early 2004.
Maher shouldn’t have had much to complain about; the change did not affect his current salary. But the change did affect his eligibility for certain types of pay raises in the future, so Maher lashed out, warning MCCP Team Coordinator Robert Pritchard in an April 2004 letter that he planned to appeal the decision to the Civil Service Commission. In the letter, Maher valiantly made a renewed attempt to describe exactly what it is that he does for the airport:
“Reporting directly to the airport director, this position serves as a political consultant/advisor to the Airport Director regarding the political climate and assists the Director in the overall management, planning and coordination of highly political, sensitive and politically visible projects as assigned.”
Apparently, the position wasn’t “political” enough, because after further review, Pritchard recommended to the commission earlier this month that Maher’s appeal be denied. According to Pritchard’s findings, “ …the position has no supervisory or budgetary responsibilities typical of the higher level classes.”
As it happens, the city’s budget analyst, Harvey Rose, agreed Maher’s duties seemed vague at best, because he recently made the preliminary recommendation that Maher’s job be eliminated entirely. According to a May 22 report from Rose’s office, the decision was based on “the lack of workload and deliverables information, the duplicative nature of the position’s functions, and the position’s high cost …” (Rose’s final budget recommendations won’t be finished until June 5.)
The Guardian also reported in April that management excess appeared to exist elsewhere at the airport. We noted that sources of ours had complained about the airport’s International Economic and Tourism Development Director, a post created for the politically well-connected Bill Lee under Gavin Newsom after the mayor removed Lee from his job as city manager. (The San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier & Ross have published versions of this story as well.)
Lee’s salary and mandatory fringe benefits, including a city car, cost taxpayers nearly $186,000 a year. His job, according to Rose’s report, is to “support international business growth.” But the airport never provided to Rose data that proved Lee had inspired any growth in international cargo or passengers. Rose, subsequently, made the preliminary recommendation that Lee’s position also be eliminated by late September “based on the lack of quantifiable economic benefits and cost savings associated with this position …”
No one at the airport’s Bureau of Community Affairs was available to comment on either Lee or Maher’s positions. But in April, Lee disputed any suggestion that his job was merely a “soft landing,” and insisted that he’s continuing to establish new business relationships between the city and key Asian countries.
Airport Spokesman Michael McCarron also told us in April that Maher spends much of his time off site “reviewing and attending appropriate board, commission and regulatory meetings.”
As part of his explanation, McCarron added at the time, “It is important for the airport to be aware of community sentiment that may impact the airport and the regulatory climate within in [sic] which it must exist.”
Clear as a bell.