Manuel Fortes poses for a portrait at the Office of Citizen Complaints in San Francisco, Calif. Friday, May 12, 2017. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

SFPD watchdog head steps down a month after being appointed

The temporary head of San Francisco’s police watchdog agency has stepped down from his position in the wake of an allegation of sexual harassment, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

Roberto Manuel Fortes, 58, was interim director of the Department of Police Accountability for a little more than a month. According to Susan Gard with the Department of Human Resources, Fortes stepped down from his position effective immediately as of Thursday.

An attorney for the DPA since 2009, Fortes was named head of the agency on May 12 following the resignation of longtime Director Joyce Hicks.

On Friday at a Budget and Finance Committee hearing, a staff attorney for the agency was asked by Supervisor Aaron Peskin if Fortes was still leading the agency.

“He stepped down yesterday morning,” said John Alden, a DPA staff attorney.

“That’s news,” replied Peskin.

The reason for Fortes’ departure remains unknown.

Soon after his appointment, an allegation by a female city employee of sexual harassment surfaced. The accusation stated that the incident occurred in 2014, according to a letter written to the Board of Supervisors by the alleged victim, a senior investigator of harassment and discrimination cases for the Department of Human Resources. She would not comment on the letter to the Examiner or why she waited years to report the incident.

“I am bringing it to your attention now, because I am concerned that Mr. Flores [sic] is being appointed to a position of power that grants him authority over subordinates and places him in a position of public trust and integrity, which he may have a propensity to abuse,” the woman wrote in her letter.

San Francisco Police Commission President Julius Turman did not respond to request for comment nor did Fortes did not return a call for comment.

Late last month, Turman penned a letter to the DPA union, which took issue with Fortes’ leadership, saying he backed the director.

“I have observed his work ethic, qualifications and abilities that he has presented before the commission over the years, and his dedication to the DPA and its mission,” reads the May 25 letter. “In the weeks to come, the commission, in conjunction with the mayor and as outlined by the city charter, will begin a process to select a permanent DPA director. Until such time as the mayor appoints a permanent director, or the commission receives objective information indicating that Mr. Fortes is an inappropriate choice for the interim DPA director role, he will remain in place.”

As of Monday, Erick Baltazar will be interim director, according to the agency.

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