A five-year-old scandal over improperly billing $15,000 of taxpayer money, and lying on a resume, is complicating the prospects for Breed’s nominee for the homelessness oversight commission, Vikrum Aiyer.
Mayor London Breed made her four nominations to the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing oversight commission Tuesday, an oversight body whose creation she opposed. (SF Voters approved it anyway as Prop. C in the November elections). Now that the commission is coming together, it’s creating another political headache for her.
A Mayor Breed nominee improperly billed federal taxpayers for personal expenses. He says it was 'a grave mistake' https://t.co/cLk2oVKWf9 via @sfchronicle— Trisha Thadani (@TrishaThadani) February 22, 2023
The Chronicle unearthed a five-year-old report, from an Obama-era Washington D.C. scandal wherein Aiyer improperly billed more than $15,000 in personal expenses to federal taxpayers, during his times as a chief of staff at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The scandal was known at the time, and reported by the Washington Post in 2016.
That Post report detailed some $4,000 in personal taxicab rides. A subsequent Office of the Inspector General report found that Aiyer “made over $15,000 in impermissible personal charges to his government-issued credit card between July 2012 and July 2016."
Yes, this all occurred over seven years ago. But it does seem exactly the kind of government waste that the homeless department oversight commission is supposed to weed out. And damningly, the report also adds that Aiyer “misstated his educational credentials on resumes he submitted to secure his politically appointed positions at the Agency by claiming to have a post-graduate degree that he did not actually receive.”
“This has been out there for a while, and it was just a mistake,” Aiyer tells the Chronicle. “It’s both a teachable moment and also a moment that I don’t take lightly.” He also admitted it was "a grave mistake."
Aiyer was in his 20s at the time, a time during which he made the Forbes “30 Under 30” list (cough cough, generational wealth). Once Obama left office, Aiyer was hired by Postmates as VP of global public policy and strategic communications (he was there when Uber acquired them), and went on to become an ACLU deputy director, though penned a few very pro-Breed few op-eds in that position over which some of his colleagues were reportedly not thrilled.
I want to be clear: the piece that Vikrum Aiyer published today in the SF Chronicle does not accurately represent our organization’s policy positions, at either the National ACLU or ACLU of Northern California. And I am livid that he used the ACLU name in this piece.— Carl Takei (@carltakei) February 9, 2022
Breed’s office said in a statement to the Chronicle that Aiyer “accepted that he owned his mistakes and has learned from them.” The statement adds that “He acknowledged his efforts and he previously paid the government back for his mistakes, and has learned from them.”
It may also not be irrelevant that Aiyer has been a faithful Breed donor, having already donated the max $500 to her reelection campaign. Oddly, he also donated $2,500 to a PAC supporting the recall of Chesa Boudin (PACs don’t have the $500 limit), while also having given $1,000 to a PAC opposing the recall.
Otherwise, he’s generally made the kind of boilerplate local Democratic donations that someone with the cash to donate would make to find favor with the City Hall machine.
But the rehash of this scandal could absolutely cause problems for Aiyer’s confirmation by the SF Board of Supervisors. “The reason Proposition C requires all appointments to be reviewed and approved in a public hearing at the Board of Supervisors is so we can ensure they have the proper qualifications and are the right fit,” Supervisor Ahsha Safaí told the SF Standard. “As a member of the Rules Committee, I look forward to finding out more about each of the candidates prior to making a decision on whether to confirm.”
Safai himself sponsored Prop. C, which was a compromise version of a previously failed 2019 Matt Haney effort, this time seen as more palatable because it gave Mayor Breed one extra appointment. Ironically, that one extra appointment is now complicating Breed’s choices for the oversight commission.
Related: Breed Names Her Nominees to a Homelessness Commission She Preferred Did Not Exist [SFist]