City whistleblower program reveals misuse of resources

Voters approved plan in 2003 to reduce waste, fraud and abuse of city property

Public employees building a storage unit on city time, taking home city-owned chairs or using a fire truck to run errands — all these infractions were uncovered this year by The City’s two-year-old Whistleblower Program.

The program was established in the Controller’s Office two years ago, as a result of legislation approved by voters in November 2003. Since it began in August 2004, the program has received 466 complaints, all of which have been investigated, according to program Director Jodi Darby.

Seventy-four of the 222 complaints received this year were “true whistleblower cases,” alleging waste, fraud or abuse of city resources, according to Darby. The rest fell under the purview of other city departments.

Whistleblowers can call a hotline, fill out a complaint form online or send an e-mail or letter.

Darby said details of the investigations, such as who is found at fault, are not disclosed based on the advice of the city attorney. The program is effective, she said, having uncovered wrongdoing that has even resulted in the suspension or termination of city employees. The program “shines a spotlight” on city business, she said.

This year, based on a complaint, the program found that three carpenters and one painter were guilty of “making a storage unit on city time and with Department of Public Works materials,” according to a report released by the Whistleblower Program.

At least one complaint about the misuse of city vehicles proved true this year. A San Francisco Fire Department truck was parked outside of a business while a firefighter was inside “ordering materials for personal use and the crew waited outside,” according to the report. The firefighter “admitted misuse” and received a written warning, according to the report.

The program also uncovered the fact that a nonprofit organization that was receiving grant money from The City’s Department of Public Health was inadequately running a substance abuse counseling program at a high school. The nonprofit eventually closed down the program, and the 18 students it served were put into other programs, the report said.

One city employee was reported for removing eight city chairs from a Department of Human Services worksite. According to the report, the employee thought it was acceptable to take the chairs home since they “were being replaced with new ones,” the report said.

City residents also sometimes find themselves under investigation by the Whistleblower Program. One resident was reported for running a used car business out of his home without a city permit, another for painting curbs without The City's knowledge.

jsabatinie@examiner.comBay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Police Officer Nicholas Buckley, pictured here in 2014, is now working out of Bayview Station. <ins>(Department of Police Accountability records)</ins>
SF police return officer to patrol despite false testimony

A San Francisco police officer accused of fabricating a reason for arresting… Continue reading

Disability advocates protested outside the home of San Francisco Health Officer Tomas Aragon. (Courtesy Brooke Anderson)
Vaccine rollout plan for people with disabilities remains deeply flawed

On February 13, disability activists paid a visit to the house of… Continue reading

Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Shamann Walton announced that funding would be diverted from the police budget toward the black community in June 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City directs $60 million toward Black community services and housing support

San Francisco released new details Thursday for how it plans to spend… Continue reading

The Stud, The City’s oldest gay bar which is vacating its longtime home at Ninth and Harrison streets after more than 50 years, on Thursday, May 21, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City’s nightlife recovery fund approved but struggling business owners fear relief may come too late

As San Francisco’s nightlife scene approaches nearly a year of a complete… Continue reading

Riordan Crusaders versus St. Ignatius Wildcats at JB Murphy Field on the St. Ignatius Prepatory High School Campus on September 14, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner)
State allows high school sports to resume, but fight is far from over

For the first time since mid-March 2020, there is hope for high… Continue reading

Most Read