A new report from the City Controller says that a long-standing “public safety services” nonprofit has been improperly billing the police department nearly $10,000 a month on limo rides, Vegas and Tahoe trips, and curiously pricey gift boxes.
It’s an old trope from the tough-on-crime crowd that there’s a homeless industrial complex of nonprofits devoted to eliminating homelessness, but actually spending big money on personal expenses. But the Chronicle is all over a new audit from the SF Office of the Controller showing that an SFPD-funded “crime prevention education services” nonprofit called SF SAFE improperly spent SFPD money on luxury gifts, limo rides, and trips to Tahoe and Las Vegas, and events that were perhaps a little more fancy than they needed to be.
Thank you to @SFPDChief and @SFSAFE for gathering the many community partners who support SFPD’s work tonight in their “after the holidays” party. It was great to see so many retired and current officers and staff! pic.twitter.com/9aRU8jet6i— Catherine Stefani 司嘉怡 (@Stefani4CA) January 13, 2023
The full City Controller's report audited only a nine-month period between July 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023, but during that period, they identified $79,655 where SF SAFE billed the police department for expenses that were ineligible for reimbursement under their contract — and SFPD dutifully paid for them anyway. “These expenses included the cost of luxury gift boxes, a Lake Tahoe symposium trip, recurring parking fees, and ride-hailing services,” the reports says, noting that none of these are eligible for reimbursement under the terms of the SF SAFE’s grant agreement with the department.
But the full scope of the inappropriate spending is likely vastly higher. The Controller’s Office only audited nine months, over which SF SAFE billed SFPD $910,000, nine percent of which was deemed inappropriate spending. But SF SAFE has billed the department for a total of $5.3 million since July 2018. So at that rate, the improper spending over the last five or so years could plausibly total many hundreds of thousands (and the Controller does request an audit of that full period).
SF SAFE works with CPABs (Community Police Advisory Boards)—groups of residents & business reps who assist the @SFPD in problem-solving neighborhood crime & safety issues, and act as a “think tank” for community policing activities. Learn more! https://t.co/5hOhZ1RKmR pic.twitter.com/b98FUkvZ9r— San Francisco SAFE (@SFSAFE) January 10, 2024
And boy do these aforementioned gift boxes sound extravagantly priced. Above we see a promotion for something called a CPAB (Community Police Advisory Board). One October 2022 CPAB event handed out gift boxes. And per the City Controller report, “Each gift box cost $162 and contained items such as Silver Needle Tea, a portfolio, and a mug.” Must have been one hell of a portfolio and mug! And it was all paid for by SFPD, via your tax dollars.
The report also calls out an SF Safe trip to Las Vegas. “Although the symposium was held at a hotel that had an estimated room cost of approximately $129 per night, SF SAFE staff stayed in another hotel nearby, incurring lodging costs of $7,367,” the audit notes. But again, lodging is an expense that is not eligible for reimbursement under the organization’s grant with the police.
In response, the nonprofit’s attorney Dylan Hackett told the SF Standard “SF SAFE acknowledges the findings, and they are committed to implementing corrective measures, which they have already done.”
But there's likely more scrutiny coming. “I’ve been ringing this alarm bell inside City Hall for several years, and it's taken until today to see the light of day,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin told the Standard (though he is seen at an SF SAFE event above with the nonprofit’s executive director Kyra Worthy). “They should not be doing business with [Kyra Worthy], plain and simple.”
SF Safe may sound like one of those generically named tech PACs like Grow SF, Abundant SF, and TogetherSF Action, but it is something very different. Those PACs are at least privately funded, whereas SF Safe has been around since 1976 and is largely taxpayer-funded. And we may hear a lot more in the months to come just what they’ve been doing with that taxpayer money.
Image: San Francisco SAFE, Inc. via Facebook