Supervisor: OESHS is refocused agency

On the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy, a San Francisco supervisor said San Francisco’s embattled Office of Emergency Services and Homeland Security is back on track now that the department has “competent leadership.”

The office came under attack in May for being unprepared for a disaster, with The City’s Budget Analyst’s Office releasing an audit saying OESHS Director Annemarie Conroy lacked experience in managing disasters, emergency plans remained incomplete and millions in Homeland Security dollars were left unspent.

The audit was followed days later by a grand jury report saying The City was not prepared to handle a mass-casualty disaster, and recommended OESHS work with area hospitals to develop a plan.

Soon after the release of the two reports, Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Laura Phillips as the executive director of The City’s Emergency Communications Department, which oversees OESHS.

Phillips comes to San Francisco with more than 25 years of emergency services experience, and at one time oversaw emergency planning for the city of Sunnyvale.

On Monday, the Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee conducted a hearing on the reports, after postponing the hearing in May, whenConroy failed to show up. Conroy was also absent from Monday's hearing.

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who sits on the committee, used Conroy’s absence to drive home the point that Conroy was no longer in charge of The City’s emergency preparedness, and repeatedly asked Phillips if she was now Conroy’s boss. “The buck stops with me,” Phillips said.

Peskin said Phillips’ leadership is a “breath of fresh air.”

“The reality is that we finally have competent leadership and it was a long time in coming,” Peskin said after the meeting. “There was a lack of experience and maturity at the top of that organization and now it’s under qualified adult supervision,” he added.

Phillips said her department has implemented or is in the process of implementing 54 of the city audit’s 72 recommendations.

As for the unspent Homeland Security dollars, totaling about $40 million, Phillips said, “Our goal is to expend 100 percent of the funds. Nobody wants to return it.” The City has until the end of the year to spend the federal money.

Phillips highlighted the fact that communication has already improved with city departments, saying OESHS has a “new attitude.”

She promised to report to the Board of Supervisors more frequently as well as seek to restore the public’s faith in the department.

jsabatini@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The J Church train could begin running again later this month on at least part of its surface route. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)
First Muni trains will return to service Dec. 19

Three additional bus routes coming back online in January

Smoking cannabis. (Shutterstock)
Supes ban tobacco smoking in apartments but exempt cannabis

San Francisco banned smoking and vaping of tobacco in apartments Tuesday night,… Continue reading

Dr. Grant Colfax and Mayor London Breed said new restrictions could come this week due to rising COVID-19 cases.<ins> (Examiner screenshot)</ins>
Breed: ‘More restrictive action’ needed to slow spread of COVID-19

San Francisco officials said Tuesday tougher restrictions will soon be imposed to… Continue reading

Many landlords fought the proposal requiring them to register properties, calling it an invasion of privacy. 
Kevin N. Hume/
S.F. Examiner
Housing inventory wins unanimous approval from supervisors

Legislation will require landlords to register properties, report vacancies and rents

Harlan Kelly, head of the SFPUC and husband to City Administrator Naomi Kelly (right), faces federal charges for allegedly trading inside information on a city contract in return for a paid family vacation. (Courtesy photo)
Harlan Kelly, head of SFPUC, charged with fraud in widening Nuru scandal

Kelly accused of engaging in corrupt partnership with permit expediter

Most Read