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Politics & Policy

Top 5 misconduct reports filed by San Francisco city workers this winter

A whistleblower | Getty Images/iStockphoto

San Francisco is well-known for its corruption scandals and governmental gaffes, from staggering bribery charges to windowless rooms where SF police stash troubled cops. 

Lesser known is the quarterly whistleblower report by the San Francisco Controller’s Office, which encourages city employees and members of the public to report suspected misconduct among city officials and agencies. San Francisco counted a record 732 whistleblower reports last fiscal year, and the Department of Building Inspection was the most frequently targeted agency in the controller’s most recent report. 

The Standard reviewed the 152 whistleblower reports filed from January through March of this year, which include allegations of illegal overtime to growing cannabis on city property. Here are five anonymous reports that stood out from the pack. 

1. All the Smoke

One employee was accused of showing up to work reeking of marijuana. To make matters worse, the person was allegedly growing weed on city property. 

Though the city could not substantiate the claims, the employee did get a reminder of the city’s drug policy, which definitely does not allow workplace consumption or distribution of substances. 

Hundreds of smoking San Franciscans lounged at Hippy Hill on April 20, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

2. Live To Work

Some San Francisco employees were accused of intentionally exceeding overtime hours to make extra money—despite the fact that city employees earned a median income of $126,000 last year. Two different whistleblower allegations say that city employees falsified overtime hours and attendance reporting. 

WATCH: How the $25 Million SFPD Overtime Debate Went Down

One investigation found a city manager worked more than 520 hours of overtime in a single year, which is only allowed under special authorization. The whistleblower also alleged that the same manager created “unnecessary work to justify overtime” and worked certain shifts known to receive a premium rate. The second and third claims were not substantiated, however. 

Last year, SF police paid millions for police officers to work fewer overall hours—largely because of overtime. 

A San Francisco police officer checks a phone at the Pride Parade in San Francisco on Sunday. | Isaac Ceja/The Standard

3. Creeping Tom

One particularly creepy whistleblower allegation states that an employee took pictures of other employees without their consent. The claims couldn’t be corroborated, but department management counseled the employee following the complaint. 

4. Throwing Hands

In one of the more intense allegations made to the controller, two employees of a city-issued contractor are accused of assaulting a member of the public and failing to adhere to “security protocols.” The contractor independently investigated the case, and the two employees were subsequently fired. 

“The contractor stated that it will continue to provide staff with de-escalation and harm reduction training and techniques, and reinforce its zero tolerance for violence in its policies, procedures, and staff meetings,” the whistleblower report notes. 

A handful of city-contracted organizations and employees have come under fire for misconduct allegations in recent months. An Urban Alchemy worker fired a gun in an April 2021 shooting, claiming that he acted in self-defense. The organization was criticized when the worker was tapped for a promotion just two years later.  

A member of Urban Alchemy works on the corner of Eddy and Hyde streets in San Francisco’s Tenderloin on March 2, 2022. | James Wyatt

5. Double Dipping

Having one full-time job is hard enough; working two sounds like a nightmare—but apparently, more than a few city employees are giving it a go. 

A whistleblower reported that a city employee worked an unauthorized second job, which conflicted with their primary job’s duties, and an investigation confirmed the claim. The employee sent in a request for approval that was later rejected, forcing the employee to give up their second job. 

A scandal broke out in the Department of Public Health last year, when an agency head, Lisa Pratt, worked a second job—with a six-figure salary, to boot—without proper approval from the city. Supervisors later pledged to investigate city employees suspected of holding down second jobs. 

Dr. Lisa Pratt, director of Jail Health Services, attended the ribbon cutting for the Minna Project in San Francisco on June 9, 2021. | Paul Kuroda for The Standard.