Recreation and Park shakeup may have been final straw

A decision by the head of The City’s Recreation and Park Department to fire a popular manager may have been the reason he was pushed out of a job, officials said Thursday.

Following months of rumors that his job was in jeopardy and closed-door talks with Mayor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday night, General Manager Yomi Agunbiade announced Wednesday that he was stepping down from his post.

Just days earlier, Rhoda Parhams, director of the department’s capital division, told staff she would be leaving, according to spokesman Elton Pon.  Agunbiade had taken steps to remove her, a department staffer confirmed.

Jim Lazarus, vice chair of the Recreation and Park Commission, believes the situation with Parhams may have contributed to Agunbiade’s announcement.

“I think that got the mayor’s attention in a negative way,” he said.

Mayor’s Office staff did not return calls for comment Thursday.

Agunbiade has been an unpopular leader, taking heavy criticism from park advocates for his lack of rapport with the public, as well as his handling of a number of bond-funded projects that were designed improperly, behind schedule or over budget.

He has also been at the helm through a number of high-profile crisises, including fatalities at the San Francisco Zoo last December and Stern Grove in April.

Additionally, in July, Recreation and Park Department spokeswoman Rose Marie Dennis was offered a job reassignment after she filed a personnel complaint against Agunbiade, charging him with harassment.

In recent letters to Newsom, supervisors and the department, residents said Dennis and Parhams were park staff who welcomed input from the community, while Agunbiade had a reputation for top-down management and rocky interactions with the public.

Agunbiade will remain in his post while a search team recruits his replacement, according to Newsom’s office.

Agunbiade declined an interview request with The Examiner on Thursday.

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

 

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