San Francisco police wrongly reimbursed an anti-crime nonprofit at least $79,000 for lavish expenses including luxury gift boxes, valet parking at an exclusive club and a Lake Tahoe trip that featured limo services, a new report found.
The report, released Thursday by the Controller’s Office, concluded that the San Francisco Police Department dished out the funds to the crime-prevention nonprofit San Francisco SAFE between July 2022 and last March without adequately checking whether the taxpayer dollars were being spent properly.
SF SAFE, which stands for Safety Awareness for Everyone, is billed by the SFPD as the “nonprofit community engagement arm” of the department. The SFPD website describes it as “a trusted platform for community empowerment, allowing residents to advocate for more resources and take ownership of their own public safety needs with innovative tools.”
The “ineligible” or “excessive” expenses reimbursed by SFPD amounted to 9% of the $910,000 in grant funds that police paid to the nonprofit during the period reviewed by the Controller’s Office. They included more than $33,000 worth of curated gift boxes purchased from Olive Grey and Company.
The boxes, which cost at least $152 a piece, were handed out at a Community Police Advisory Board symposium attended by more than 100 people—including police and District Attorney’s Office employees—and at a Visitacion Valley community event celebrating Lunar New Year and Black History Month.
The department also reimbursed SF SAFE more than $14,000 for the nonprofit’s staff to attend a training symposium in South Lake Tahoe. The report found that the nonprofit spent an “excessive amount,” or upward of $12,000, on lodging and transportation, including some $4,500 worth of limo services.
Another chunk of the improper reimbursements by SFPD were for parking and transportation expenses, such as nearly $2,000 spent on valet parking at the Battery, a members-only club in San Francisco, according to the report.
The report also found that SFPD reimbursed the nonprofit for nearly $6,000 worth of rides with Lyft and Uber, including trips to San Francisco from its executive director's home in Richmond as well as rides in Las Vegas and Austin.
Reached by phone, an attorney for SF SAFE and its director Kyra Worthy said that the nonprofit cooperated with the review by the controller.
“SF SAFE acknowledges the findings, and they are committed to implementing corrective measures, which they have already done,” said the attorney, Dylan Hackett.
Hackett said SFPD had documentation for the Lake Tahoe trip when it approved the reimbursements. He said parking expenses had not been a problem before.
“Parking has always been allowed for SF SAFE staff,” Hackett said. “It was asked that SF SAFE provide reimbursements when they are out in the community.”
Hackett said there was never an issue with the gift boxes that the nonprofit gave out at earlier events. He said the Uber or Lyft rides in Austin were for a law enforcement conference, and that the controller may have erroneously concluded that SFPD reimbursed the nonprofit for rides in Las Vegas.
He explained that Worthy had her arm in a cast and could not drive when she got reimbursed for her trips from her home in Richmond to San Francisco.
Hackett said Worthy and the nonprofit would not seek reimbursements for any “unrelated charges” or personal expenses.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin said he had previously heard allegations of misspending by the nonprofit and had called for the department to cut its funding. He said SFPD should cancel its contract and no longer fund the nonprofit.
“I’ve been ringing this alarm bell inside City Hall for several years, and it's taken until today to see the light of day,” Peskin said.
“They should not be doing business with her, plain and simple,” he said, referring to Worthy.
Evan Sernoffsky, a police spokesperson, pointed out that the controller’s report was spurred by a request from the department.
“We agree with the findings, and we are taking steps to immediately get our money back and make sure that no ineligible expenses are charged again to the grant,” Sernoffsky said.
The SFPD said in a statement that it plans to reevaluate its grant agreement with the nonprofit when the contract expires in June in light of the report. The department said it cooperated with the review and independently confirmed the findings.
“The department takes this matter very seriously, and we’ve taken action to address it,” the department said.
SFPD said it would recover $79,655 from the nonprofit this month to offset the reimbursements implicated by the report. The department said it would deduct the amount from its current grant agreement with the nonprofit.
SFPD said it is also now requiring the nonprofit to provide more complete documentation of its expenses and will regularly track them.
“The SFPD is continuing to review this matter along with our oversight practices with our grant partners to ensure the highest degree of accountability," the department said.