Emergency director deflects audit’s harsh critique

San Francisco’s Office of Emergency Services Director Annemarie Conroy defended her office Monday against a searing audit that characterized it as a top-heavy organization and called into question the viability of her own job.

Conroy questioned the accuracy of the report, released Monday by Board of Supervisors budget analyst Harvey Rose, but said she would comply with “the vast majority” of its recommendations. She said her office is “always happy to hear constructive criticism.”

The audit report attacked many aspects of the department, including fiscal management, communications as well as effectiveness of its disaster plans.

The report criticized the office’s spending, indicating that only 1 percent of the $38 million in grant money spent over the last five fiscal years went to training.

Conroy said Monday that the expense categories are inaccurately named, indicating that the 1 percent figure does not include overtime paid to working emergency personnel who have participated in training programs.

“The 1 percent that they’re showing is the nonpersonnel training and exercise costs,” she said. Including the overtime paid to trainees, the office has directed about 25 percent of its expenditures toward emergency training.

The report concluded that 41 percent of the office’s staff is management and recommends that Conroy’s own position cease to exist after she completes her tenure.

Public Policy Director Julian Potter said Monday that the managers coordinate operations with other jurisdictions, meaning the people being managed do not come under the audit’s scope, just the managers.

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said Monday that he looks forward to implementing the report’s recommendations.

Conroy said the only recommendation she did not agree with is the elimination of the job she currently holds.

“Given San Francisco’s susceptibility to earthquakes and the threat of terrorism, I don’t think it would be a wise suggestion to move forward with that recommendation,” she said.

"Clearly, emergency services coordination between first responders has historically been done without this position, but I think we’re going to have an honest debate about the value of that position,” Peskin said Monday.

If the position is eliminated, the report suggests the director of the Emergency Communications Department assume responsibility for all emergency services in The City. Pamela Katz currently holds that position as acting director.

amartin@examiner.com

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