It’s politics with an inside twist at the County Administration Building, where Jim Duffy, a sheriff’s lieutenant, took over earlier this year as Republican county supervisor Ron Roberts’s chief of staff. Son of the late sheriff John Duffy and former president of the San Diego Deputy Sheriffs Association, Jim Duffy is said by some to be burning to run for sheriff when Bill Kolender’s fourth term in office ends in January 2011. But there are other possible successors for the 73-year-old Kolender, including his second in command, undersheriff Bill Gore, who used to run the FBI office here. So Duffy’s relatively unheralded move to Roberts’s office has been seen by many as the supervisor helping his establishment friends give Duffy a head start over Gore.
And the way the arrangement was set up has only raised more eyebrows. According to salary records furnished by the County in response to a Public Records Act request, in 2007 Duffy made $108,491 a year. That was up from the $93,392 he made in 2003. His salary under Roberts has risen to $135,220. But even more interesting to some is the fact that Duffy did not have to retire as a sworn officer from the sheriff’s department in order to get the Roberts gig. Instead, he took advantage of a little-known loophole in county law that permits employees to take an indefinite leave of absence without pay from their regular positions in order to “accept an unclassified position as staff to an elected official.” No matter how long the leave, employees always have a guarantee of return to their old position, which in Duffy’s case comes with a better pension deal than civilian workers receive. Duffy did not respond to a request for comment message left at his office.