More than a decade of campaign money-giving to San Diego city council members — including Republicans Lorie Zapf, Chris Cate, Mark Kersey, and Scott Sherman, along with Democrats Barbara Bry, Chris Ward, and Myrtle Cole — appear to have guaranteed the city’s putative chief operating officer Kris Michell quick council confirmation.
Campaign disclosure records show that, since 2007, Michell has personally kicked in a total of $24,260 to city campaigns, with nearly 30 percent of the cash ending up in the coffers of GOP mayor Kevin Faulconer, who named Michell to her new executive post two weeks ago. A longtime Republican operative, Michell oversaw much political activity as chief of the Downtown Partnership and its San Diego Jobs PAC, which went all out for GOP ex–city attorney Jan Goldsmith and Superior Court judge David Berry. Over the years, Michell tapped an array of big-money special interests to finance her political causes, including the Sycuan Tribe, owner of downtown’s Grant Hotel, and city paramedic contractor Rural/Metro, many of which still have dealings with city hall.
Staffer and confidante to Republican mayors Susan Golding and Jerry Sanders, Michell jumped back to city hall this past summer when politically besieged Faulconer tapped her as deputy chief operating officer for special projects, ostensibly to ride herd on downtown’s burgeoning homeless problem. Per an engagement letter for that job released by Faulconer after a request under the public records act, Michell received a $195,000 yearly salary, a monthly car allowance of $475, and a raft of generously grandfathered pension benefits due to her previous city employment.
Such rich retirement packages were abolished for new hires by 2012’s Proposition B, championed by both Sanders and Faulconer, who claimed the city couldn’t afford them. “Michell noted that she left the city nearly a year and a half before the pension-reform vote and played no role favoring or opposing the ballot measure,” the Union-Tribune reported in November. But a May 2012 campaign filing by Michell’s San Diego Jobs PAC shows the group spent $29,000 on a slate mailer touting the proposition. The size of Michell’s latest salary and benefits deal has yet to be made public.