Discover more from Gotham by Susan Dyer Reynolds
Three Bat Friday: Public defenders want judge removed for jailing dealers; City Attorney and Admin suspend Dwayne Jones on contracts they signed; Supe calls for HealthRight 360 audit
Plus, East Bay kray kray: 'Sideshow Sheng' hearts Common; Cat Brooks calls neighbor a gentrifier but forgets to look in the mirror
It’s been a busy week here at Gotham by the Bay as I work on 16 stories simultaneously. According to some far-left conspiracy theorists who made another one of their infamous charts, I am a paid activist working side by side with San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to take over San Francisco (with some help from Bill Oberndorf, David Sacks, and Peter Thiel). More on that in The Final Word.
The OG of video journalism, Stanley Roberts, alluded to some big stuff going down at 850 Bryant. “Oh snap! Are we heading down a new rabbit hole to protect drug dealers in San Francisco? Hey @SusanDReynolds you’re up next,” he tweeted earlier today. According to one inside source, yesterday the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office was blatantly obstructing the flow of cases and targeting Judge Marisa Chun in Department 9 by demanding all cases in her courtroom be handled by a different judge. Over just an hour, one source saw defense attorneys request a new judge on four separate cases. As Stanley mentioned, it was an angry scene with “yelling and screaming,” and the reason? The District Attorney’s Office asked that a drug dealer be held to jail, and Judge Chun had the nerve to agree. Whatever was happening in Department 9 yesterday, another source tells me it was “very placid this morning.” The court called the case of Candy Cardona Zuniga and the judge issued a no bail warrant for her failure to appear — but Candy was convicted, sentenced, and referred to deportation last week in federal court. I guess nobody bothered to tell their state counterparts. You can’t make this stuff up.
On September 7, City Attorney David Chiu and City Administrator Carmen Chu filed a suspension order against Rudolph Dwayne Jones and affiliated entities to prohibit them from bidding on or being awarded new contracts or grants with the City and County of San Francisco. As you may recall, last week the District Attorney filed criminal charges against Jones and Lanita Henriquez, program director of the City’s Community Challenge Grant Program, for bribery, misappropriation of public funds, and financial conflicts of interest that allegedly occurred between 2016 and 2020. The problem? Both the City Attorney’s Office and the City Administrator signed off on contracts for Jones and his firms even after I exposed it in a 2022 Reynolds Rap column for the Marina Times.
In minutes I obtained, Jones appears at a AECOM/Parsons joint venture board meeting, held at SFPUC headquarters on Aug. 8, 2018. Jones, who also had a consulting contract with AECOM/Parsons, presented an updated Community Benefits contribution plan, effectively telling his client which nonprofits to pay on behalf of his other client, the SFPUC. One of the beneficiaries was Southeast Consortium for Equitable Development, run by Jones’s wife and business partners, and the payment was withheld pending legal review by — you guessed it — the city attorney’s office, then under Dennis Herrera (who now heads the SFPUC). The minutes note the city attorney conducted a review of “all community-based organizations on the FY 2018-19 plan. All organizations were vetted and 501c3 status verified. There were no findings.” On Aug. 25, once Herrera’s office gave the green light, the joint venture board processed the payment and Jones received a $25,000 check at his office on Bayshore Boulevard.
Jones also had contracts with SFO for “concessions analysis” and a “community outreach” deal, as well as a contract with the city administrator for $95,000 dated July 2020 (the same month my Community Benefits exposé came out) that ran through June 2021. When Jones entered his contract with the city administrator, Naomi Kelly, was his boss. After Naomi stepped down following her husband Harlan’s arrest, his new boss (appointed by Mayor London Breed) became Carmen Chu, who re-upped Jones’s contract after it expired. According to SF OpenData, Jones and Southeast Consortium for Equitable Partnership have received $1.5 million from the city administrator’s office.
District 2 supervisor Catherine Stefani took a break from her campaign to replace Assemblyman Phil Ting when he terms out in 2024 to call for something near and dear to my heart: an audit of HealthRight 360 (HR360), the city’s largest “nonprofit” purveyor of harm reduction. The organization temporarily paused intakes to its “withdrawal management program” due to a reported Covid outbreak, prompting Stefani to call for an immediate audit at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. Of course, Stefani did something similar in 2018, when I quoted her office in a column about the actual cost of homelessness (at the time, around $800 million) saying she had called for an audit of all homeless nonprofits, “which should be available in early 2019” (I’m still waiting). This time Stefani asked the San Francisco Controller’s Office to investigate HR360’s ability to adequately staff its program. Mind you, HR360 is slated to receive more than $200 million from the city this fiscal year. As I wrote last December, between January and March of 2022, just 18 of the 23,367 visitors to their Tenderloin Linkage Center — or 0.08% — had been referred for medical or substance abuse treatment, and there was no way to track them. The word “linkage” was dropped from the name, and the center later closed because HR360 had turned the secretive location into a rogue drug den. One worker told me about a guest, known by other homeless for doing sexual favors in exchange for drugs, who “came to the center telling everybody she ‘needed dick,’ wearing a blonde wig and leopard-print handcuffs as she was walking through…”
HR360 has millions of reasons to want to keep their position as City Hall’s favorite recipient of harm reduction tax dollars — with revenue of $144,275,651, they spend $64,822,045 in salaries and wages, which includes over $2 million in executive compensation. Nine officers make between $234,000 and $312,450 annually. The most highly compensated is CEO Vitka Eisen.
Medical Director Ako Jacintho makes nearly $253,000 annually, despite the fact his medical license was limited on practice due to probation, which lasted through May 21 of this year. According to the Medical Board of California, Dr. Jacintho admitted to “gross negligence, repeated negligent acts, incompetence, failure to maintain adequate and accurate medical records, altered, modified, or created false medical records, and prescribed drugs without prior medical examination or indication of care and treatment.”
While they make sure their executives are paid handsomely, HR360 is being sued for allegedly violated California Labor Code Sections §§ 201, 202, 203, 204, 210, 226.7, 510, 512, 558, 1194, 1197, 1197.1, 1198, and 2802 by failing to: (1) pay minimum wages; (2) pay overtime wages; (3) provide required meal and rest periods; (4) reimburse for required business expenses; (5) provide wages when due; and (6) provide accurate itemized wage statements.
Nonprofits aren’t the only companies with things to hide: community activist and video reporter JJ Smith has been banned from entering some of the homeless hotels (also known as “Single Room Occupancy” or SROs), with “Do Not Enter” crudely handwritten on his photo and placed where staff can see it. JJ documents the harsh realities of his Tenderloin neighborhood, including the many drug overdose deaths that occur inside SROs. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, almost 25 percent of the city’s overdose deaths occurred in the Tenderloin district, with “166 people fatally overdosing in city-funded hotels in 2020 and 2021.”
It’s been kray kray in the East Bay this week, where anti-police and anti-gentrification activist Cat Brooks nabbed a nomination for my 2023 Hypocrite Hill Awards after it was revealed she and her husband own a number of rental income properties — and they’re not exactly giving them away to the poor. One house, described as a 1,336 square foot “charming 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom abode is the perfect blend of classic Victorian elegance and modern amenities,” is listed for $3,200 a month (with a “pet friendly” deposit of $400). “Just imagine how much fun you'll have entertaining guests with the central sound system,” the ad boasts. “The kitchen is open, spacious, and has all the bells and whistles, including granite countertops and shiny stainless steel appliances. Upstairs, you'll find three cozy bedrooms, the second bedroom is particularly special with mirrors on the walls, it can double as a gym! You'll have the perfect place to workout right at home. Step outside into the small but oh-so-sweet backyard, and you'll find a little oasis waiting for you. There's also an outdoor seating area with a fire pit. And, with a top-notch security system, you'll feel safe and secure in your new home!” Brooks believes the police should be abolished, and if she gets her wish, I doubt that “top-notch security system” is going to make her tenants feel “safe and secure.”
As Brooks took some heat for being an anti-landlord landlord, a grainy video surfaced of her calling a neighbor a “gentrifier” without looking in the mirror. “Bitch, you don’t own none of this block you gentrifying cunt,” Brooks shouts, to which her neighbor responds, “I’ve been in this house way longer than you’ve been in your house, bitch.” Brooks clearly didn’t like that answer, screaming, “Fuck you, bitch! Come off those stairs, you white fucking gentrifying bitch! Bring it!” As someone urges Brooks to move along, she can’t resist tossing out an unsubtle threat. “I’m gonna see you bitch! Don’t get caught slipping off that mother-fucking porch!” Maybe Brooks should refer her neighbor to the company where she got that top-notch security system for her charming 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom rental abode.
Here’s the video in its entirety:
Speaking of anti-police, Brooks ally Mayor Sheng Thao, who, in 2021, voted against adding more police academies as an Oakland city council member, is reaping what she sowed. Five months after she fired Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong in the wake of a report released by a law firm working for the Federal Monitor highlighting the alleged mishandling of two misconduct incidents, the department remains short on officers and without a new leader. Meanwhile, crime continues to spiral: last week, two women died and three other people were injured in three separate shootings; on Sunday, two people were injured after a shooting on westbound Interstate Highway 580 near the Seminary exit; and on Labor Day a woman was caught in the crossfire of a gun battle and injured when a stray bullet struck her as she walked around Lake Merritt. None of this seemed to bother Thao, sometimes referred to by her critics as “Sideshow Sheng,” who was busy fan-girling out over performances from headliner Common and the eponymous Hieroglyphics crew at Hiero Day 2023, a hip-hop festival held in front of Oakland City Hall. According to KQED, Chicago emcee, actor, activist and philanthropist Common “had charisma and a commanding stage presence in evidence for all to see,” including Thao, who “gushed over him earlier in the day.” Author Eric Arnold noted, “Thao, for her part, certainly seemed to embrace the culture. Dressed in a hella fresh varsity-style jacket with Oakland’s tree logo embroidered on the back, she looked amped to be able to talk about something other than rising crime rates, police scandals, and the deteriorating relationship with the Oakland A’s.” Tone-deaf Thao would rather party with Common than deal with those pesky little problems.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate Common. There’s even a Gotham connection: Common played gangster Monster T in the 2016 DC Comics film Suicide Squad. After meeting The Joker (played by Jared Leto) to talk business at the club, Monster T calls Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn “a bad bitch.” A sadistic Joker then brings Harley to sit on T’s lap, offering her to him for the night, which T knows is too good to be true. “That’s your lady, Joker, I don’t want no beef,” T says. “You don’t want no beef?” the Joker taunts T, repeating it several times before shooting and killing him. Common only lasts two minutes and 15 second onscreen, but it’s one of the movie’s more memorable moments.
Our Video of the Week comes from Dodge Place Tenderloin SF and shows an understandably frustrated DPW worker shoveling trash into his truck as a homeless person picks through it on the sidewalk. “It’s a damn shame you lookin’ through trash! You can go get a job and look through trash and get paid for that…Lookin’ through trash. You need to go get some help. And tomorrow…because of people like him, we have to clean it up, you know? We gotta make it straight because when people try to come down here in a wheelchair…”
Frankly that DPW worker should run for mayor because he understands the crisis on the streets better than anyone currently warming a seat at City Hall.
The Tweet of the Week is a two-for-one from one of my favorite social media accounts, SF Public Safety News (SFPSN), who keeps us informed on what’s going on at the courthouse regarding criminal cases and trials. The first is an update on Garret Doty, the man accused of violently assaulting ex-San Francisco Fire Commissioner Don Carmignani in the Marina District. The trial has been set for September 13 and will be heard in Department 23 before Judge Linda Colfax. Doty is presently in custody at the San Francisco County Jail after repeatedly violating a judge’s stay-away orders.
The second Tweet of the Week is a case I’ve written about, the horrific and tragic murder of beloved photographer and location scout Ed French. After a mistrial was declared this past May (despite the incident having been captured on video) the retrial of Fantasy Decuir and Lamonte Mims has been set for January 12, 2024, after a request for another continuance by Decuir’s counsel at a status hearing in Department 22 before Judge Rochelle East. According to SFPSN, Assistant District Attorney Heather Trevisan told the court, "At this point, this has got to be the eighth or ninth continuance. At some point this has got to stop — this trial has been pending for years … the family is extremely frustrated.” Despite French’s family sitting right before her, Judge East was “unmoved” as she set the date for January. Be sure to check out the SF Public Safety News website here for the latest.
THE FINAL WORD: As I mentioned up top, some far-left conspiracy theorists made another one of their tin foil hat charts. This time I’m a paid activist working side by side with San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to take over San Francisco (with some help from Bill Oberndorf, David Sacks, and Peter Thiel). Last I checked, Jenkins is paid by the city since being elected to lead the D.A.’s office after her predecessor Chesa Boudin was booted out by voters. I’ve never met my supposed overlord Oberndorf. I broke the City Hall corruption stories on Mohammed Nuru, Harlan Kelly, and Dwayne Jones while sitting at my kitchen table in 2020. My publisher and business partner Earl Adkins and I weren’t paying ourselves so we could pay our freelancers when our advertisers had to drop out during the pandemic.
As if San Francisco public school gadfly Brandee Marckmann’s spiderweb chart wasn’t funny enough (especially when attorney John Roach asked her to explain it in an under oath deposition), a new “fauxgressive” web of villains has emerged. Since it was a bit confusing and incomplete, a group calling itself “The SF/Oakland Joint Bay Area Anti-Woke Echo Chamber” issued a “fixed version” and the result is nothing short of hilarious. Since I’m not really a paid political operative, it’s a good thing I live rent-free inside all those fauxgressive heads.