Filner’s chief of staff explains why she took job

SAN DIEGO – The newly appointed chief of staff for the mayor’s office joined Fox5 Wednesday to explain why she took the position and what she hopes to accomplish amid sexual harassment allegations against Mayor Bob Filner.

Within hours of taking the job, Lee Burdick told Fox5 in an exclusive interview that she took the position to help Filner lead the city and move it forward during “these challenging times.”

Since Monday, three women, including the mayor’s former communications director Irene McCormack Jackson, have publicly come forward accusing the mayor of various sexual harassment claims.

“I don’t think it’s right for anyone to jump to conclusions that wrong-doing has been had while we are still developing an evidentiary record,” Burdick said. “That process will play out in its own due time.”

Filner, who has made no secret of his disdain for City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, has leaned on Burdick, a lawyer of 25 years, for legal advice since he became mayor in December.

Burdick said she believes Filner is a leader and is taking actions to prove it.

“One way he is doing that is by promoting me to an important leadership role to show that he has respect for women,” she said.  “Putting a woman in a responsible position and relying on her leadership is how ordinary government business ought to be done.  It shouldn’t be considered pandering.”

The mayor’s office has a new policy of not allowing women to meet with Filner without another person present. The policy was implemented in an attempt of curbing new allegations.

“I will not be attending any meetings with the mayor where I’m not accompanied by another staff member or a member of the security detail,” she said. “I worked with [Filner] to frame that policy.  It was developed to protect the mayor as much as it was anyone else.”

Since allegations were brought to the public’s attention, Filner has evaded Fox5’s daily requests to discuss the matter and other city business.

“He has been humbled by the allegations,” she answered.  “He’s evaluating what he may have done over time to create this situation. Consequently, he has withdrawn some in order to allow himself time and opportunity to reflect.”

Burdick assured that the mayor will make him available in the future to discuss city issues.

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