Passengers wait to board the 27-Bryant Muni bus at Cyril Magnin and Market streets on Thursday, July 19, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Muni’s HR director out after allegations sexual harassment complaints were mishandled

Employees at San Francisco’s transit agency have for months alleged that sexual assault and harassment allegations go largely unheard.

Amidst that controversy, the man responsible for responding to those complaints has quietly exited from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs Muni.

SFMTA Director of Human Resources Don Ellison’s “last day in the office” was Friday, according to an email sent by SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin to all 6,000 SFMTA staff on Monday, which was obtained by the San Francisco Examiner and verified by the SFMTA.

Sources with knowledge of the situation said it was “telling” that Reiskin simply noted Ellison had his “last day in the office,” whereas it is traditional for Reiskin to point out when someone is retiring in mass staff emails.

Additionally, Ellison’s exit coincides with the ongoing top-to-bottom review of SFMTA’s human resource practices by an independent ombudsperson, Dolores Blanding, who was appointed by Mayor London Breed to investigate the agency last October.

To multiple sources close to the matter, those circumstances clearly imply Ellison may not have had a choice in leaving his job.

SFMTA is legally barred from sharing whether or not Ellison was fired. In Reiskin’s email to staff, he said Ellison brought “more than 30 years of Human Resources experience to SFMTA” which included time at AC Transit and the California Automobile Association.

“We wish him the best in his future endeavors,” Reiskin wrote.

Ellison’s role will be filled, at least temporarily, by interim Acting Director of Human Resources Derek Kim. Kim joined San Francisco government in 2006 when he was recruited to help launch 311 services, according to SFMTA, and in 2007 he joined the transportation agency’s human resources division.

Since late last year SFMTA employees have came forward to the San Francisco Examiner detailing allegations of sexual exploitation, groping, racial slurs and more that have gone unaddressed by SFMTA.
Ellison’s exit is not the only SFMTA leadership turnover that appears related to these allegations — John Haley, SFMTA director of transit, retired from the agency last October following a lawsuit from a subordinate alleging he groped her.

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