S.F. official rejects Newsom's request to resign

The head of San Francisco’s struggling Housing Authority told The Examiner on Tuesday that he will not be submitting a letter of resignation to Mayor Gavin Newsom, as was requested of all top high-level City Hall staff members.

Gregg Fortner, the executive director of the Housing Authority — which oversees federally subsidized rental housing for low income families — was one of only two top officials who did not submit a letter by last Friday’s deadline. The Mayor’s Office confirmed that he was out of town last week.

Newsom recently asked 71 senior staff members and department heads to submit letters of resignation, dated for Jan. 8, 2008, the end of his term. The letters, he has said, will make it easier for him to make significant changes in the administration during his second term, if re-elected. The resignations, according to the mayor, only go into effect if he accepts them.

This week, Fortner said that he doesn’t plan to submit a letter of resignation since a seven-member commission — all appointees of the mayor — governs his employment contract.

“My employment contract gives them the ability at any time to make a change,” Fortner said.

City Hall sources say that in refusing to submit a resignation, Fortner is protecting severance provisions in his contract that would be voided if he left voluntarily.

Fortner’s situation is likely similar to that of Nathaniel Ford, the head of Muni, who wrote in his letter to Newsom that his resignation was “not voluntary and if accepted by you will be interpreted as a Termination for Convenience pursuant to … my Employment Agreement.”

According to City Hall sources, Newsom has already talked to more than a dozen top officials about their job performance, and the mayor has confirmed that there are top officials at City Hall who are not working to his expectations.

Newsom has championed a plan to rebuild the Housing Authority’s decrepit public housing projects, and last month made an angry phone call to Fortner after seeing vandalism and a lack of maintenance during a visit to the Sunnydale Housing Project.

When asked if he felt his job was under threat, Fortner replied, “I don’t have any comment on that.”

beslinger@examiner.com

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