A Castro community patrol group that depended on the nonprofit San Francisco SAFE to receive city dollars is the latest potential victim to come forward as questions of misspending surround the embattled charity.
Castro Community on Patrol, a volunteer organization that seeks to deter crime by walking beats around the historically LGBTQ neighborhood, said Wednesday that its longtime fiscal sponsor, SF SAFE, abruptly canceled their partnership in November after nearly two decades of working together.
The decision left the volunteer group, known as CCOP, with some $11,000 in bills that it had expected to pay using city grant funding passed through SF SAFE, according to Greg Carey, the group’s chief of patrol.
Carey said the debt included more than $6,300 owed to a small business for ballistics vests, as well as funds owed to himself for smaller purchases and money owed to a contractor for record-keeping and communications work.
“We have been keeping a low profile because we need to find a new fiscal sponsor before we can begin rebuilding bridges with some of our valuable vendors,” Carey wrote in an email to The Standard. “At the same time, we did not want to be one of those invisible victims that keeps the public from knowing the true impact of the events as they unfold.”
Carey said he first began to understand the problems at SF SAFE after seeing an article in The Standard about how a Controller’s Office report found that the nonprofit had improperly billed its major funder, the San Francisco Police Department, for at least $79,000 in expenses not covered by its contract.
The expenses included thousands of dollars spent on luxury gift boxes handed out at events, a staff trip to Lake Tahoe and transportation expenses such as ride-shares for the executive director and valet parking at an exclusive club in the city called the Battery.
Since that report, other vendors who installed security cameras and did other work for SF SAFE have come forward, saying that the nonprofit stiffed them on more than $1.2 million in bills for jobs they had completed.
SF SAFE’s board responded by launching its own investigation and firing their executive director, Kyra Worthy, after discovering the bank accounts at the nonprofit were depleted and indications of possible check forgery. The nonprofit was also temporarily shut down.
The first signs of trouble at SF SAFE that Carey noticed came in early 2023, when the nonprofit began taking months instead of weeks to process reimbursements. Then in August, SF SAFE told the organization that $20,000 in city grant funds that it expected to receive were canceled.
“When they told us that our current year’s funds had been pulled back, that was without any explanation,” Carey said in a phone call. “It was puzzling.”
But Carey said SF SAFE told the organization via email that it still had about $80,000 in grant funds at the nonprofit left over from prior years.
He said he expected the $11,000 in bills, including for the ballistic vests, would have been paid for with those funds.
“We had older vests that had expired,” Carey said. “It seemed as though we had sizable city funds available.”
It’s unclear what happened to that city funding, or whether SF SAFE had received it on behalf of the organization in the first place.
The board president for SF SAFE could not be reached for comment. Worthy, the fired director, did not respond to a text message.
Carey said the patrol group is now looking for a new fiscal sponsor and working with Supervisor Rafael Mandelman to reestablish city funding. The group received $7,600 in donations to help cover its expenses in the interim.
Mandelman said he did not know what happened to the city funds the group was supposed to get through SF SAFE.
“It is confused and shoddy record keeping? Or did it get used for something it wasn’t supposed to get used for? I don’t know," Mandelman said.
Mandelman said his office has asked the Controller's Office to look into the issue, and is working to help the group find an alternative fiscal sponsor.
“This is not a great time for anybody to be looking for help from the city because the city is retrenching but I think this is an important organization that does good work,” Mandelman said.
Founded in 2006, Castro Community on Patrol is made up of about a dozen volunteers who wear brightly colored vests to deter potential criminals or others who might want to commit hate crimes against the LGBTQ community.
They also offer self-defense classes and are prepared to assist with medical emergencies, Carey said.
The group had partnered with SF SAFE since its inception.
“I’m confident that we are going to be OK,” Carey said. “But it might take a little while to get everything settled down.”