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Troubled San Francisco nonprofit SF SAFE fires director, reports possible check forgery to police

A smiling woman in an orange top with glasses and hoop earrings stands in front of a window with blue signage.
Kyra Worthy was fired from SF SAFE on Wednesday following allegations of financial mismanagement by her San Francisco police-funded nonprofit. | Source: Courtesy San Francisco Examiner

An embattled anti-crime nonprofit entrusted with millions of taxpayer dollars from San Francisco police coffers fired its executive director Wednesday morning and is temporarily shutting down after finding a lack of funds in its bank accounts and discovering possible check forgery, officials told The Standard.

Kyra Worthy, the executive director of San Francisco SAFE, the longtime nonprofit arm of the San Francisco Police Department, was dismissed from her duties by the board of directors for the charity Wednesday morning, according to an attorney for the nonprofit, Dylan Hackett. The nonprofit is also “ceasing operations for the time being,” Hackett said.

The decision comes on the heels of revelations that SF SAFE improperly billed SFPD for at least $79,000 in expenses—including luxury gift boxes, valet parking and a Lake Tahoe trip—and is also allegedly in debt by at least $1.2 million to various vendors who performed work for the organization.

SF SAFE’s board of directors initially voted Tuesday night to put Worthy on paid leave, according to Hackett and the president of the board, Dan Lawson. However, the board decided to temporarily shut down operations and fire Worthy on Wednesday morning in light of “new information,” Hackett said.

While Lawson and Hackett initially declined to provide details about that new information, Lawson confirmed Wednesday afternoon that they were investigating possible check forgery and insufficient funds in bank accounts that were supposed to be used to pay staff.

"We found what looked like there was a lack of funds, and so that’s why we had to stop operations," Lawson said.

While all checks over $5,000 by the nonprofit need to be signed by both Worthy and the treasurer of the nonprofit, Hackett said one check was signed only by Worthy.

Lawson said the nonprofit had reported the discrepancies to SFPD and would cooperate with law enforcement.

Lawson said he was “very concerned and disappointed” about the situation.

“We all were committed to the community and building trust in the community to help prevent crime, and here we are, engulfed in distrust,” Lawson said.

Lawson asked for the public to have patience and understand that SF SAFE “generally speaking has served the community well.”

He said he hoped the nonprofit would reorganize soon.

An attempt to reach Worthy for comment was not successful.

Donor Raises Alarm About How Funds Were Spent

Worthy’s tenure was first called into question last Thursday when the Controller’s Office released a report finding that the nonprofit had spent police dollars in ways that it shouldn’t have, including on the nearly $15,000 staff trip to Lake Tahoe and on parking and ride-hailing expenses for Worthy. 

While the report identified at least $79,000 in expenses wrongly reimbursed by San Francisco police, the controller projected that the total amount of improper or excessive spending by SF SAFE was “likely significantly higher.”

The report also knocked the SFPD for dispersing some $3.8 million of the $5.3 million that it reimbursed SF SAFE for expenses between July 2018 and March 2023 without checking for receipts. The funding was mostly for “crime prevention education services,” according to the report.

The scathing report was followed by revelations Tuesday by The Standard that crypto billionaire Chris Larsen also had concerns about how SF SAFE spent as much as $1 million of the $1.8 million in grant funds that he gave the nonprofit to expand the use of security cameras in the city.

A company that SF SAFE hired to install and maintain the cameras, Applied Video Solutions, told The Standard that the nonprofit owed the firm between $600,000 and $1 million, approximately, for past work.

But the problems at SF SAFE did not end there.

Alex Tourk, principal at Ground Floor Public Affairs, told The Standard that the nonprofit owed his firm $80,000 for his work advising it.

The SF Latino Task Force, a group of more than three dozen community organizations, is also alleging that SF SAFE failed to pay its contractors some $625,000 for training Spanish-speaking community ambassadors, Mission Local reported Tuesday. This is despite the nonprofit allegedly receiving this amount from the city to pay for the completed work.

The issues at SF SAFE have spurred calls for separate hearings at the Board of Supervisors and Police Commission by Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin and Police Commission Vice President Max Carter-Oberstone.

"The alleged malfeasance raises serious questions about who knew what and when at SFPD," Carter-Oberstone said. "The commission needs to hear directly from the controller to ascertain the relevant facts."

Michael Barba can be reached at mbarba@sfstandard.com