Skip to main content

300 health department employees with secret side gigs come forward after scandal

Dr. Grant Colfax, the San Francisco director of health, participates in an SF Department of Public Health meeting on July 19, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

At least 300 people have held unauthorized second jobs while working for the city’s Department of Public Health and are only now seeking approval as the city investigates the practice. 

The health department said on Wednesday that it has received 300 additional requests for secondary employment since Oct. 21, the day that Jail Health Services director Lisa Pratt resigned from her second job at a city-contracted nonprofit. 

The surge of dual employment applications came after the health department reminded employees of their responsibilities to seek permission for secondary jobs. The city launched an audit of the practice after The Standard revealed that Pratt, a top public health executive, was moonlighting 20 hours a week for the nonprofit Baker Places in violation of city rules

The department said that of 304 currently pending applications, 44 are in need of additional paperwork and 260 are under review. 

“In other words, those 300 were violating the law, never asked for permission and are now asking for forgiveness?” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin.“Well shit, somebody call the police.” 

There are 137 health department employees who have an already approved side job for an entity outside of city government, the most of any city department by far. If you add that number to the 304 pending requests, then 441 health department employees work second jobs, making up 6% of the department’s total workforce. 

Meanwhile, the Public Utilities Commission has the second-most employees working second jobs, with 18 employees reporting side gigs, which amounts to 1% of its workers. 

At least 22 health department employees are holding jobs at an organization that is affiliated with, or receives funding from, their department. Those organizations include Instituto Familiar de la Raza, Institute on Aging, San Mateo County as well as seven different hospitals and schools. 

“This seems to be just the tip of iceberg. This is just shocking,” Supervisor Ahsha Safaí said. “How many of them might have an inherent conflict? It’s causing me to have less and less faith in the leadership in the Department of Public Health.”

Signage for the San Francisco Department of Public Health is reflected in the building’s directory inside the office at 101 Grove St. on Oct. 19, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

Safaí submitted a letter of inquiry to the SF Ethics Department on Tuesday to urge for more oversight of the additional employment approval process. 

The health department said that it’s in the process of revamping the dual employment approval process and working to increase awareness about the necessary guidelines around the practice. 

Employees are barred from working jobs that contradict, interfere or present a conflict of interest with their city job, according to the city attorney’s Good Government Guide. 

In Pratt’s case, her city job running health care in the city’s jails requires her to be on call for the city 24/7, and public record emails obtained by The Standard show her responding to emails for the nonprofit during normal business hours. Pratt earned $123,000 annually at Baker Places on top of her $428,750 city compensation.

“The department is confident that this new process will ensure greater compliance and reduce confusion among employees about their responsibilities when seeking additional employment,” said the health department in a statement. 

The dual employment practices raised alarm at City Hall after The Standard reported that Pratt was collecting a second salary from Baker Places as its finances were unraveling. Baker Places and Positive Resource Center, its administrative arm, have asked the city for two cash bailouts since the summer and are now in the process of transitioning four of its programs to other providers. 

Pratt resigned from her position at Baker Places in October.