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Politics & Policy

Local Democratic leader on leave after sexual misconduct allegations emerge

Side-by-side images of Jon Jacobo and Kevin Ortiz with similar features, both with short hair, beards, and serious expressions.
Jon Jacobo, left, and Kevin Ortiz have spent years working as political organizers in San Francisco’s Mission District. | Source: The Standard

Accusations of rape and domestic violence against Jon Jacobo—a once-rising star in San Francisco politics—have prompted the city’s Democratic Party to begin tracking alleged instances of sexual misconduct by political leaders.

Now, a well-known political organizer has been placed on leave from an influential nonprofit after claims of misconduct emerged on social media.

Nancy Tung, the newly elected chair of the Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC), said Friday that the party leaders are forming a special committee dedicated to rooting out sexual assault and harassment.

Friday’s announcement, which cited The Standard’s recent story detailing allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault by Jacobo, also referenced “a recent second allegation against a current president of a chartered Democratic club.” 

Multiple sources confirmed it was a reference to Kevin Ortiz, the current co-president of the city’s Latinx Democratic Club and a board director at Chinatown Community Development Center, an affordable housing and advocacy nonprofit. Last year, Ortiz escorted Rep. Katie Porter on a tour of Mission District businesses.

Earlier this week, dozens of people tweeted a redacted image that said Ortiz was “known and accused” of similar allegations to Jacobo. In an email Friday, officials at Chinatown Community Development Center alerted staff that Ortiz had been placed on “indefinite leave” due to the social media reports. An attorney representing Ortiz denied any wrongdoing.

Sasha Perigo—the first woman to publicly accuse Jacobo of rape in 2021—received a cease-and-desist letter from Ortiz’s attorney after she reposted the image referencing allegations on X.

The cease-and-desist letter was sent by the firm Quadra & Coll LLP, which has worked with Ortiz to represent Mission District businesses that are upset over the installation of a bike lane on Valencia Street.

Ortiz did not respond to requests for comment Friday, but his attorney, Jim Quadra, said in a phone interview that “there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, and Mr. Ortiz categorically denies any wrongdoing.”

Quadra added that the DCCC’s veiled reference to misconduct by a prominent Democratic Party official is “based on insinuation, hearsay and rumors.”

“It seems to me that this is politically driven because Mr. Ortiz is an advocate who is passionate about the positions he takes,” Quadra said. “It’s convenient to accuse him quietly to affect his political career, but they don’t have the evidence to do it.”

At events in recent months, Ortiz has repeatedly spoken out in support of the Mission Street Vendors Association—an organization that hired Jacobo to serve as its spokesperson to advocate for people selling goods on sidewalks.

Ortiz previously worked as a staffer in Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office. A spokesperson for Pelosi’s office declined to discuss Ortiz’s role in the office and his departure beyond confirming he was an employee from January 2020 to June 2022.

Tung, who works as the chief of the vulnerable victims unit and community partnerships in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, sent a letter to DCCC members in which she said the new committee will not investigate claims but rather document the extent of sexual assault and harassment in the city’s political community. The group will then make recommendations to the party on actions to support victims and prevent future incidents.

The committee will be chaired by Tung and include DCCC members Emma Heiken, Trevor Chandler, Bilal Mahmood, Lily Ho, Michela Alioto-Pier and Carrie Barnes.

“It is of paramount importance that our political spaces are also safe spaces,” Tung said in a statement.

The San Francisco Women’s Political Committee, which led the charge for the new committee, issued a statement calling on San Francisco officials in “positions of leadership, influence, and power … to address pervasive cycles of sexual violence and abuse.”

“We must change the culture in order to make all spaces free of sexual violence,” the group said. “The responsibility is upon all of us to speak up.”

Hours after The Standard’s story about Jacobo was published, he resigned from his role with TODCO, a politically powerful housing nonprofit, and Police Chief Bill Scott issued a statement saying his department was “diligently” investigating allegations against Jacobo.