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Donna Frye Quits City Hall Job to Become President of CalAware

Ex-councilwoman, Mayor Filner's first director of open government, was target of pension critics.

Updated at 1:15 a.m. April 4, 2013

Three weeks after unveiling an open-government website for San Diego, former Councilwoman Donna Frye has abruptly closed her work as Mayor Bob Filner’s first public-transparency czar, leaving a potentially $100,000-a-year job for an unpaid position.

Frye has been named president of Californians Aware, a nonprofit that focuses on First Amendment and open government rights.

CalAware general counsel Terry Francke said Wednesday that her predecessor's three-year term was up under its bylaws, "and the presidency is not a 'job' but a voluntary service."

Frye was nominated and elected by vote of the CalAware board, moving up from vice president, Francke said via email.

Her last day at City Hall was Tuesday, said a city statement.

Frye told KPBS she became president in February and decided doing both jobs was too much, and “I really need to focus on my efforts with CalAware right now. And it’s not mutually exclusive. I’ll still be helping Bob any way I can, just in an unpaid position.”

“It was sort of organic,” she was quoted as saying. “I try to do a lot of things. Opportunities come up and I think I can do it all. I’m smart enough to know the limitations on my ability to focus on my city work and do my duty as president.”

Filner congratulated the former mayoral candidate, saying: “I asked her to work in my administration because she adheres to her values and believes that people have the right to know what their government is doing.

“She has done a great job during her short time back in City Hall. We will continue to open the doors of government to the public, but will miss her drive, determination and wonderful sense of humor that helped to get things done.”

Frye, council member from 2001 through 2010, said in a statement: “I must commit my efforts to this statewide organization. I ran for City Council because I believed in open government. And I’ve pursued that ever since. We set up the framework for open government in the Filner administration and now I’m going to pursue it statewide.

“I love sunshine. I love it at the beach and I want to make sure that it shines brightly in the halls of governments up and down the state.

She added: “Of course, I will continue to help the Filner administration in their efforts to promote open government.”

She succeeds Dennis Winston as CalAware president.

Winston, who lives and works in Marina del Rey, is a business attorney who has represented news organizations, elected representatives, private citizens and public interest organizations in cases under the Ralph M. Brown Act, the Bagley-Keene Act and the California Public Records Act.

Frye had been criticized by former mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio and others for “double-dipping” by accepting a job that could pay $100,000 a year while getting a council pension of under $30,000 a year.

Frye and Filner rejected those assertions.

This isn’t the first time a San Diegan has headed CalAware.

J.W. August, managing editor for 10News with KGTV, the ABC television affiliate in San Diego, is president emeritus of CalAware.

JIM TAYLOR July 12, 2013 at 02:19 PM
Mayor Frye

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