Conroy: Agency suffering ‘growing pains’

San Francisco Office of Emergency Services and Homeland Security Director Annemarie Conroy on Wednesday publicly confronted the authors of an audit that sharply criticized her office’s performance.

Board of Supervisors budget analyst Harvey Rose and three of his staff members took turns summarizing their findings, made public Monday in a nearly 200-page report. They described an office in which a management-heavy staff failed to effectively communicate with other agencies, including theirs. They also called into question the need for the very existence of Conroy’s job.

The report details alleged failures by the OESHS in organizing its disaster plans, managing its money and spending its grants. Of $82.7 million in federal grant money the office has received, it has spent only $38 million, the report says. The remainder could expire and have to be returned.

For the first time since word of the report’s scathing findings leaked out, Conroy was given the opportunity to defend her office in an official setting, a meeting of the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee.

“We have had some growing pains,” Conroy said, noting that the office has brought on new 21 staff members over the last 18 months, going from a staff of four to a staff of 25. She cited letters of support from 30 organizations, from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to San Francisco Animal Care and Control, as evidence that her office is on the right track.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, however, said he was “concerned” by the absence of supportive letters from the San Francisco Police Department, San Francisco Fire Department and the Bay Area Rapid Transit District.

Conroy said she did not request such letters from those agencies because they regularly work with the OESHS. “I thought it was obvious we were working together,” she said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Conroy said it would be “unwise” to eliminate her position as the audit suggests. “It’s an important role in city government. I think we all recognize that,” she said. “I think we would be one of the only counties in the state without that position.”

Peskin said the hearing had “just scratched the surface” of the report. He announced his plan to call for the formation of a select committee to examine the findings of the audit.

amartin@examiner.com

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