The man appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom at the airport to attract international tourism was denied a salary Wednesday by a Board of Supervisors committee, the latest rift in the strained relationship between the mayor and the board.
The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee refused to release $92,890 for the six-month salary of Bill Lee, who serves as the airport’s International Economic and Tourism Development director.
In 2005, Newsom ended Bill Lee’s long stint as city administrator by picking Ed Lee to take that post, and then appointed Bill Lee to the newly created position at the airport, where he remains. At the time, the creation of the airport position drew criticism from some supervisors, including Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin.
Lee is a longtime city employee who has strong support in the Chinese-American political community. He was appointed city administrator by former Mayor Frank Jordan in 1995, then reappointed to the post by former Mayor Willie Brown in 2000.
Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who serves on the finance committee, criticized the Newsom administration for not providing adequate information about Lee’s post at the airport. "We have a two-paragraph letter that simply says release the funds and that’s it. Frankly, I find it insulting," Dufty said. "I have no basis to support this position. I am not going to vote for a position based upon community politics."
When asked to explain Lee’s position, Peter Nardoza, assistant deputy airport director, said Lee has helped attract new airlines and new flights to the airport, particularly from Asian countries.
"I have great personal respect for you," Peskin said to Nardoza. "This is so much hooey. You know it, I know it."
Newsom spokesman Peter Ragone said, "It appears Peskin and the board are going after an individual, a public servant with a great amount of public service in his career. It’s sad this kind of politics, personal destruction, continues here at City Hall. We hope that the Board of Supervisors will bring that to an end."
Last year, the Board of Supervisors eliminated a job created for another Newsom appointee, Annemarie Conroy, who was put in charge of The City’s emergency planning. Her qualifications came into question following a critical city audit. Conroy resigned at the end of the year.
It is expected that Lee will remain at his post and another funding source will be found to pay for his salary.