Department of Emergency Management Deputy Director Mike Dayton no longer works holds his position as of last week, though no one at the agency would comment as to whether Dayton was fired or resigned. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Emergency official who racked up absences during heat wave, power outages, quietly shown the door

On Guard column header Joe

When San Francisco experiences an earthquake, a heat wave, major power outages or any number of calamities, the Department of Emergency Management plays a key role in coordinating The City’s emergency personnel in response.

Now the second in command of that agency, Division of Emergency Service Deputy Director Mike Dayton, has been quietly shown the door, insiders confirmed to me.

Sources tell me Dayton’s job was on the rocks following a San Francisco Examiner investigation that showed he racked up absences on the job during various 2017 emergencies.

Our reporting revealed he worked “remotely” from his home in Sacramento during a number of emergency activations of the otherwise hard-working department.

Dayton earned $176,371 annually, according to nonprofit Transparent California.

“We value his contributions, he did a lot of great things, he’s very talented. We wish him well in his future efforts,” said Francis Zamora, a spokesperson for the department of emergency management.

SEE RELATED: SF leaders concerned key emergency official was absent during recent heat wave, power outage 

While that sounds warm and fuzzy, I’m told that The City Family (as government officials call themselves) felt far frostier toward him, resulting in Dayton being passed over for the job leading the Department of Emergency Management when its director, Anne Kronenberg, announced her retirement last July.

Dayton earned himself no favors: When I asked him on the record how he would get to San Francisco during a major earthquake from his home in Sacramento to coordinate the emergency response, he said he would ask his buddies around the state to fly him in by air.

“Yes, helicopters,” he said at the time.

That statement earned him the ire of then-supervisor, now Mayor London Breed, along with a bevy of other local officials.

So was Dayton fired? Did he quit? Well …

Legally, such things are personnel matters and departments rarely comment about firings. All the Department of Emergency Management could do was verify to me that Dayton is indeed gone. Dayton himself didn’t return my voicemail for comment.

However, sources close to the matter say one week ago on Wednesday, Dayton was unexpectedly called into the office of his boss, Mary Ellen Carroll, the new executive director of the Department of Emergency Management at their Turk Street location.

He was then driven by department leadership to his office on Van Ness Avenue to collect his things and was escorted out.

No word on if he took a helicopter home.

* * *

There’s a war of words in the world of homelessness, and the word few officials — including some supervisors — want to be uttered about the homeless is “sweeps.”

To wit: When the Coalition on Homelessness and other progressive political folk critique actions against the homeless, they say police and Public Works conducted a “sweep.” When those departments defend those actions, they often call it an “encampment resolution.”

Now, however, thanks to emails obtained under the Sunshine Ordinance, we know what these folks are saying behind closed doors.

And they definitely, definitely use the word “sweep” — but perhaps not in the way you’d expect.

In an email from a San Francisco Police Department officer to a group of police on July 10, 2018, which was discovered in a public records request from the Coalition on Homelessness, that officer wrote “Lt. McKeever can you please have the 70 units head down to Civic Center Plaza tomorrow morning by 0600 hours to clear out the homeless.”

Then a section is redacted (marked in black), followed by another sentence reading, “They will need to stand by after the sweep is done and they are relieved at 0830 by the other assigned units.”

Many were quick on Twitter to blast SFPD for callous language.

However, this instance of the word “sweep” may actually have nothing to do with the homeless crisis, said Sgt. Michael Andraychak, an SFPD spokesperson.

“The Department’s Bomb Squad did a protective sweep of Civic Center Plaza on the morning of the Mayor’s Inauguration,” he wrote in an email to me, Wednesday. “In order to conduct a protective sweep, all persons must leave the area while the (officers) and K9’s work. Once the sweep is completed, the public would have been excluded from the area until such time that sufficient security personnel are brought in to monitor the location.”

Well, pays to ask questions, doesn’t it?

While it certainly has been documented that police and Public Works have ordered the destruction of tents from homeless people sleeping in the rain, in this particular instance, it may seem their use of the word “sweep” may be in the clear.

For more on how San Francisco conducts homeless sweeps during storms, and otherwise, check out Supervisor Matt Haney’s hearing at City Hall on Thursday.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

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