Facing at least two challengers in next year's rapidly approaching March primary, San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott has put former Union-Tribune reporter Lisa Petrillo on the city payroll as the office's assistant for "community outreach."
Petrillo arrived in the city attorney's office October 22, city records show, as attorney Cory Briggs – who announced in July he would challenge Democrat Elliott's bid for a second term – ramped up his campaign. Since then, defense attorney Pete Mesich has joined the fray.
"Award-winning news and science/tech writer/editor | Strategic communications and media relations professional," notes Petrillo's profile on LinkedIn.
"Expert in delivering vivacious and scrupulously accurate content tailored to reach any target audience | Expertise in education, healthcare, science & technology innovation, and research and development marketing and communications. I am good at what I do, I learn fast and I never miss deadline."
Prior to arriving at city hall, Petrillo was a communications specialist at the San Diego County regional airport authority for three months from August to October of this year, per her profile.
Before that she served a year-long stint at U.C. San Diego as a communications/media specialist and has done public affairs work for military contractor General Atomics, owned by the Republican Blue brothers Linden and Neal.
Petrillo joins fellow U-T alumnus Gerry Braun in Elliott's inner circle. Currently the city attorney's chief of staff, he received total pay and benefits of $231,716 in 2018, according to the website Transparent California.
That beats the still impressive compensation of Scott LaFee, another U-T veteran, who pulled down total pay and benefits of $193,535 last year as director of communications and media relations at UC San Diego Health, per Transparent California.
As the once-mighty newspaper has shrunk its staff numbers through layoffs and buyouts, a host of U-T reporters have gravitated to similar government work.
In addition to Braun, LaFee, and Petrillo, the roster of ex-U-T scribes on government payrolls include Mark Sauer, who went to work for city councilwoman Donna Frye and is now employed by San Diego State University-owned KPBS television.
Now retired, John Gilmore served as communications manager for the San Diego Port District. One-time U-T city hall reporter Tanya Castaneda became the Port's public information officer in 2012 before moving on this past January to the politically oriented P.R. firm of Manolatos Nelson Murphy, home of Tony Manolatos, another ex-U-T reporter.