The expected happened late last week as Colleen Windsor resigned from her post as San Diego City Councilmember Jim Madaffer's Grantville redevelopment project director. Calls for Madaffer himself to step down from office have grown louder, but Windsor falling on the sword-either of her own volition or asked to by Madaffer-was always far more likely. It's really too bad for Windsor. She was never a villain; she was put in a tough spot, thanks to Madaffer's appallingly bad decision making.
Madaffer hired Windsor, who'd been former Mayor Dick Murphy's press secretary, last August, several months after Murphy resigned. Her job didn't make much sense from the start. It appeared to entail schmoozing developers in hopes of convincing them to build in Grantville, which had been declared a redevelopment area but was embroiled in a legal turf war between the city and county governments. The hiring was problematic in that Madaffer, whose office budget was maxed, planned to pay Windsor with tax money generated by the redevelopment project, which was inappropriate to begin with; that's not how redevelopment revenue is supposed to be used. But even if it were the right thing to do, the legal cloud over Grantville meant that revenue wouldn't even be flowing for about another year. Oh, and then there's the issue of whether or not a City Council office should be meddling in redevelopment to begin with; the city has a redevelopment agency that oversees these projects. Meanwhile, how was Windsor even qualified for a redevelopment post? She was a TV reporter turned press secretary, and now Madaffer was paying her $88,000 plus $41,000 in benefits while City Hall teetered on the edge of insolvency.
Madaffer played several shell games in hopes of finding a way to pay Windsor, but none of his schemes worked, and last month, city auditors released a report that showed Madaffer's office was $176,000, or 21 percent, over budget. The council member announced that he would be forced to pay Windsor out of a District 7 infrastructure fund and a computer-replacement fund. And the rest of his staff would have to take unpaid time off during the next fiscal year.
Windsor did the right thing by resigning. Had she stayed, she'd have been resented by her office colleagues, and her position was a luxury the city couldn't afford to begin with. Although she said some silly things last year about her qualifications, who can blame her for accepting a job when offered? It's Madaffer's fault; his arrogance and mismanagement put Windsor in a no-win situation. Happily, Windsor just had a child, so her priorities have shifted.
This brings us to Dan Strumpf, CityBeat's City Hall reporter. In breaking the news of Windsor's resignation, Voice of San Diego news website reported that the story "started" with the Voice's reporting of the city auditor report last month. That made us giggle because it really started with Windsor's hiring last summer, a piece of news that Strumpf broke for CityBeat in a story titled "Windsor's windfall: Murphy's orphaned press secretary climbs aboard Madaffer's Grantville gravy train." It questioned the financing, the appropriateness of the hire and Windsor's qualifications-almost a year before the rest of the local media picked up on it. And it was Strumpf who reported two weeks ago that Madaffer had sought to punish a constituent who had the gall to send Madaffer a critical e-mail. The council member directed a subordinate to forward the e-mail to the constituent's boss, a well-connected developer, to show him what his employee was up to.
We bring this up because this week Strumpf told us he's leaving CityBeat-ironically, to join the staff at the Voice. He wants to try his hand at daily journalism; he'll be covering the federal government beat.
Strumpf, who started with CityBeat as a freelance reporter in 2003, helped bring the paper recognition with some fine investigative reporting. Readers first took notice on Feb. 2, 2005, when Strumpf broke a story about a memo he unearthed, written in early 2002 by a member of a committee Murphy established to examine the city's financial health. The memo warned Murphy-almost two years before the pension crisis was common knowledge-of certain financial crisis caused by pension-system mismanagement. It was the earliest evidence of pension-crisis knowledge inside the mayor's office. Murphy resigned nearly three months later.
Replacing Strumpf won't be easy. He'll always be one of CityBeat's first kick-ass reporters, and we're sure he'll kick some more for the Voice.
So, to Colleen Windsor, we say: Good luck. Keep that baby safe and happy. To Jim Madaffer, we say: Shame on you. Public office might not be the best fit. And to Dan Strumpf, we say: Thanks for all your hard work. We'll miss you.