Rebecca Sherman, the former San Francisco Department of Human Resources investigator who last year confessed in writing to a bizarre series of lies culminating in the alleged fabrication of a $514,000 settlement, was today charged with two felony counts of forgery by the District Attorney.
Sherman’s alleged misdeeds were first made known to a large percentage of city government via a Sept. 18, 2020 mass email penned by then-Department of Human Resources manager Micki Callahan with the eye-popping subject line “Corruption at DHR.”
In that communique, Callahan referred to Sherman as a “rogue employee” who deleted records from the HR Department’s database, forged text messages, and, finally, crafted a bogus settlement for a Black Muni worker named Kathy Broussard who had been racially bullied at work. Sherman purportedly affixed several signatures to it that were not her own — including those of two city attorneys.
Sherman confessed to all this in a written apology penned to Deputy City Attorney Katie Porter. Mission Local obtained that letter via a public records request.
One of the many city employees who received Callahan’s alarming email was DA Chesa Boudin. On Sept. 21, 2020 he told Mission Local he’d open a criminal investigation into Sherman’s alleged actions. Today his office announced a pair of felony forgery charges in the case.
“My office will not tolerate those who work in San Francisco’s government agencies defrauding the very people they are entrusted to serve,” Boudin said in a statement. “The people who live and work in San Francisco deserve to have confidence that government employees act and communicate in good faith.”
Sherman, who surrendered today and was booked, is facing a possible three year and eight month jail term (which is half-time eligible). Her arraignment date will be July 15.
While Sherman’s case wends its way through the system, larger questions remain regarding the office where she worked for five years. Callahan’s mea culpa email was prompted by one sent days earlier by the city’s Black Employees Alliance.
That letter alleged that “multiple employees” who had filed discrimination complaints “were manipulated, aggrieved, assaulted and defrauded” by the Department of Human Resources and its Equal Opportunity Office — and provided with “fraudulent” settlement agreements.
The Black Employee Alliance letter further claimed that the HR Department is biased against African American employees and “is dysfunctional and is in need of new leadership.” It called for the dismissal and investigation of Callahan, as well as Linda Simon, the director of the EEO office.
Callahan, who had been preparing to retire in late October 2020, instead departed in early October. Simon in October 2020 took a three-month medical leave and retired at its conclusion. The HR Department is currently led by Carol Isen, who was promoted from within.
Subsequent Mission Local investigations found numerous HR professionals on the departmental level who complained that the city’s central HR office did, indeed, minimize direct complaints of racial animus, instead watering down those complaints to merely indicate vague discontent by workers — who were then disregarded as mere disgruntled employees.
“There are experiences I have had with reports to [DHR] where, if it wasn’t the way the department wanted to receive it, it would be sent back to be changed,” one HR professional told us.
“A complaint about not getting a job because of race or discrimination would be categorized as a ‘work assignment issue.’ And then not get addressed.”
Said another HR professional: “I can think of many times where we’d do an investigation, turn in a report, and they’d sit on it for a really long time and then send it back with instructions to edit it. If it’s leaning against the city, it would have to be rewritten and resubmitted to DHR before they accept it.”
When pressed if these edits would mitigate specific complaints regarding racial, sexual, or other forms of alleged discrimination, this HR professional replied “the way it’s set up is designed for that purpose.”
Broussard, as the Black Employee Alliance letter intimated, was not the only city employee who was allegedly lied to and misled by Sherman.
A trove of increasingly desperate texts and emails between Sherman and Assistant Fire Chief Nicol Juratovac reveal that Sherman for months strung along the longtime firefighter, assuring her that a finding in her favor regarding a discrimination claim was perhaps only minutes away from completion. The agonizing, months-long delay was justified to Juratovac by Sherman via a purported series of unfortunate events: Relatives falling sick or dying; tropical storms knocking out power; technical glitches, or even her phone being dropped into the sink.
In fact, such a finding was never written and Juratovac was subsequently informed that, prior to Sherman’s hasty Sept. 11, 2020 resignation, the investigation into Juratovac’s claims were never completed.
Disturbingly, Callahan was on multiple occasions informed by Juratovac, in writing, of Sherman’s claim that a finding in Juratovac’s favor had been completed and signed by Callahan.
While Callahan replied that no such finding existed, it does not appear she took any steps regarding Sherman’s claim that one did — and that Callahan had signed it.
By early August 2020, Sherman’s misrepresentations — and misrepresentations about her boss’ own actions — were being reported directly to her boss. Six weeks later, Callahan would send out an email admitting to wrongdoing by her department and labeling Sherman a “rogue employee.”
Juratovac has subsequently sued the city for discrimination and retaliation.
Sherman has never responded to multiple calls and text messages from Mission Local. Her motivation for these alleged misdeeds remains elusive. As a veteran manager who’d handled prior negotiated settlements, she had to know there was no chance of success in this bizarre alleged ploy — and, certainly, no means of self-enrichment.
A clue may be found, however, in Sherman’s confessional email. In that letter, she noted that she had “new information” regarding Broussard’s complaint of racist bullying, and told this to Linda Simon, who then oversaw the EEO office: “I … explained the new information and the narrow review of the proposed investigation and she said ok but that there would not be a finding.”
This would appear to indicate that, regardless of what Sherman had found — or would perhaps go on to find — that the outcome of the investigation was preordained, and Broussard was not due any compensation from the city.”
“That is where I made my first terrible decision,” Sherman continued in her letter. “I shared with [Broussard] my take on the merits of [her] complaint and [she] immediately filed an external complaint requesting an immediate right to sue, and filed suit based on my comments.”
Numerous former colleagues of Sherman’s postulated that her misguided attempts to help her client led her down a path of increasingly poor decisions — that have now led to multiple felony charges.
“I don’t have the words right now to explain the embarrassment, shame, regret I feel,” concludes her Sept. 11, 2020 email. “Again, I will fully cooperate with whatever investigation process, consequences that are to come for me and I will do my best to try to right the many wrongs I’ve made.”
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