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San Francisco police cancel up to $5.4M contract with troubled nonprofit SF SAFE

A split image, left side shows a man in a police uniform with stars on collar; right side, a woman in glasses, earrings, and an orange top.
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott, left, on Thursday canceled the department's contract with SF SAFE, a nonprofit previously run by Kyra Worthy. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard; Courtesy San Francisco Examiner

Alleged misspending by the city-funded nonprofit San Francisco SAFE has cost the troubled charity one of its biggest financial backers: the San Francisco Police Department.

In a letter Thursday, Police Chief Bill Scott informed the board of the recently shuttered nonprofit that he was pulling the plug on a grant agreement under which SF SAFE was expected to receive more than $1 million annually from the department for up to five years.

Though the nonprofit recently closed, the decision to cancel the agreement formally marks the end of the long-standing relationship between the police department and SF SAFE.

The chief canceled the agreement as criminal investigators from the District Attorney’s Office continue to probe the murky finances of the nonprofit, which is accused of misspending at least $79,000 from the SFPD as well as up to $1 million in grant funding given by crypto billionaire Chris Larsen.

The nonprofit board fired its director, Kyra Worthy, and closed up shop Jan. 24 on the heels of a report by the Controller’s Office that first found that the nonprofit improperly charged SFPD for a Lake Tahoe staff trip, valet parking and expensive luxury gift boxes. The report also found that SFPD failed to check receipts for $3.8 million of the $5.3 million that it disbursed to the nonprofit between July 2018 and March 2023.

Scott said he was canceling the agreement because the nonprofit had since failed to turn over supporting documentation for invoices submitted by SF SAFE between 2018 and 2024.

“Because SFPD cannot make any further payments without the requested documentation, and since SFPD is aware SF SAFE has suspended all operations, it has become clear that the grant agreement is no longer useful for defining the relationship, activities, and funds associated with SF SAFE's work on behalf of SFPD,” Scott wrote. “Therefore, we are officially terminating the grant agreement.”

Dan Lawson, the president of the board, did not respond to a request for comment.

SF SAFE was created by the San Francisco Police Department as long ago as the 1970s and has worked side-by-side with police to hold community meetings and organize neighborhood watch groups. More recently, it has expanded its operations and begun to run security cameras funded in part with $1.8 million in grant money from Chris Larsen, the co-founder of crypto firm Ripple.

After the troubles at SF SAFE came to light, The Standard learned of Worthy's checkered past, which included allegations that she stiffed instructors who signed up to teach needy students during a summer program in Richmond.

Scott had previously signaled that the department’s work with the nonprofit could come to an end. In a department-wide email Jan. 24, Scott told officers the SFPD had “suspended all operations” with SF SAFE and Worthy effective immediately.

“The SFPD is working with the Controller’s Office to take a more expansive look into the financial records of our grant agreement with SF SAFE to ensure the highest degree of accountability,” he wrote. “We are also convening with other city agencies and stakeholders to establish a path forward.”