At City Hall, June 2020. Photo by Laura Wenus

Mayor London Breed and every member of the Board of Supervisors were among dozens of city leaders to receive a shocking Friday afternoon email from longtime Department of Human Resources director Micki Callahan. 

In it, she accused one of her underlings of forging a settlement agreement with a Black San Francisco employee who had brought a discrimination complaint — even allegedly forging the names of a city department head and two deputy city attorneys on the bogus document. 

The subject line of Callahan’s email was “Corruption at DHR …” — a statement so blunt and disorienting from that department’s director that veteran government hands wondered if Callahan’s email had been hacked. 

It had not. 

Within the email, Callahan stated that a former DHR employee named Rebecca Sherman had, earlier this month, resigned unexpectedly from her position as an Equal Employment Opportunity manager. Callahan claimed her former subordinate had “admitted in writing that she had forged documents and lied to a city employee about that employee’s EEO case.” 

Callahan went on to make a startling series of accusations against Sherman, all of which are jarring enough that we will list them in full: 

  • Sherman lied to the employee and told her that her closed case had been reopened and reinvestigated, and that she would be receiving a financial settlement and a promotion as a result.
  • Sherman deleted records from reports printed from the EEO Division’s database to ensure that there was no record of the case in the EEO reports reviewed by DHR and the employee’s department head.
  • Sherman forged an unauthorized settlement agreement and forged a department head’s and two Deputy City Attorneys’ names on the document.
  • Sherman provided the forged agreement to the employee, assuring the employee that the settlement had been approved and that a financial settlement and promotion were pending. She did so despite knowing, and concealing from the employee, that the settlement was not authorized and would not be implemented.
  • Sherman forged email and text messages to the employee, purporting to be from the departmental payroll director, that stated the financial settlement was soon to be paid.
  • On the basis of Sherman’s assurances, the employee dismissed a pending lawsuit related to her EEO complaint. The City Attorney’s Office has informed the employee that it will stipulate to her withdrawing the dismissal, and file the necessary papers with the court to restore that lawsuit. 
  • Sherman misrepresented the status of at least one other case as well, both to the complainant and to DHR EEO and DHR leadership.

Mission Local has been unable to reach Sherman for comment. Her Linkedin page, which until recently listed her as an EEO Programs Manager for the city and county, has been deleted. 

Callahan’s email makes public allegations that Mission Local had heard privately a week prior. Her letter responds to one written on Sept. 17 by the city’s Black Employee Alliance and Coalition Against Anti-Blackness. 

That letter claims that “multiple employees” who had filed discrimination complaints “were manipulated, aggrieved, assaulted and defrauded by DHR-EEO” and provided with “fraudulent” settlement agreements.

The Black Employee Alliance letter claimed that the EEO office 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 — who is preparing to retire in the not-too-distant future — as well as Linda Simon, the director of the EEO office. 

How is it possible both Linda Simon, Director of EEO and Micki Callahan, Director of the Department of Human Resource [sic] were unaware of the elaborate scheme devised by their employees?” posited the letter from the Black Employee Alliance. 

“How many more employees have been harmed; and are being harmed currently through the DHR-EEO process?”

Callahan’s response placed the blame on the singular actions of a “rogue employee.” 

She wrote that all of Sherman’s cases will be audited and that the office will review its “standard operating procedures” to prevent “any recurrence of this type of egregious misconduct.”  

It remains to be seen if this will satisfy the city’s Black employees. 

“There is documentation proving Micki Callahan and Linda Simon were aware of complaints involving similar matters about the DHR-EEO process, and did not respond to those complaints or correct the situation,” reads the email from the Black Employee Alliance. 

“There has been and remains a lack of leadership, oversight, integrity, and ethics at DHR and the EEO Complaint Process.” 

Our coverage depends on you. If you haven’t already, pitch in. If you have, many thanks. We could not do this without you.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. “Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior...

Join the Conversation

40 Comments

  1. Wow. Great article.
    I would also have to agree with the Black Employee Alliance, that it’s not just one rogue employee.

  2. Even if Linda Simon did not have direct knowledge her consistent disengagement and lack of management fostered an environment for this to happen. Simon is more concerned with rubbing elbows with City officials than being a leader. And she has been protected by Micki Callahan, her close personal friend. Simon did nothing to adjust the City’s program to meet the Me Too movement and she will do nothing to meet the racial reckoning we are having now. If the Mayor does not force change in leadership and show Simon the door, nothing will change. I hope the Black Employee Alliance keeps the pressure on.

    1. Hello fellow Investigator. I agree with your statement. Hope you the best in your future endeavors, as there was an extreme amount of disengagement with the team.

  3. Wow that really is a lot of forgeries and whatnot – what did the employee hope to gain by this is my question?
    Was the money going to Sherman somehow? HOW?

    1. Hey. Those are good questions, but they just scratch the surface. I have seen (city, state, and federal) government employees engage in questionable behavior just to get rid of the complainant.

      Although the first question should be “how would the ‘rogue employee’ financially benefit from their action.” Sometimes the benefit is not as easily ascertainable.

  4. Thank you for this story if you didn’t do all the hard work to research, write it an inform us. No one would care to do it.
    I will stay tuned.

  5. The entire DHR leadership team needs to be dismantle, they are all products of Micki long standing racist behavior toward black employees. Take a look at her leadership team , no diversity, take a look at her managers , no diversity, you can count on one hand, the number of diverse staff that work for the Department of Human Resources and we are looking to the Director to promote DEI??!!

    1. I believe that this illustrates the problems individuals have whenever they challenge the system in San Francisco. I have personally seen this with individuals questioning the actions of employees (and the system) at HSA, DPW, AND DPH. The explanation, when (and/or if) the abuse ever comes to light is always the same: the acions of some “rogue” employee. The problem is deeper. It comes from a systemic bias against the individual complaining. Unless the compainant has a videotaped record of the entire transaction, made by nuns from four different orders, the complaint is (for all intent and pirposes) ignored.

    2. I took your suggestion and looked at the DHR Leadership team (https://sfdhr.org/meet-team). The leadership team consists of five white employees, two black employees, two Filipino employees, one Latinx employee, and one Asian employee. How does that not qualify as diverse? The managers are similarly diverse.

      Also I am unable to count the number of executive level employees on one hand. I require two. Admittedly, though, I only have five fingers on each hand. And that’s just the executive-level staff. So if you can count the number of non-white employees on one hand, you may want to see a doctor about all the extra growths on your hand.

      What specifically is this “long-standing racist behavior toward black employees?” Simply asserting that some unspecified action is racist might make you feel good as you stoke the fires of outrage but it does nothing to help illustrate what the problem is. What are some specific examples of actions that she has taken that you say are racist?

  6. The only way to win discrimination cases in the South even through the eeoc, you have to almost have video and audio of being called a N*****. Any other way they don’t give a shit and won’t try to investigate properly. Especially if you black…trust me I know from personal experience.

    1. All my discrimination complaints have been dismissed by EEO and now they are saying I am too disabled to work and wrote a letter to me saying that I myself declared such in a closed meeting with EEO. My docs say I can work, I say I can work, screw you EEO, Micki Callahan, and Linda Simon, I’ve spoken with all of them and they are garbage don’t let them retire!

    1. Typical City Management to say it was all the employee. Management acts as if they are a benevolent group whose trust has been broken by a “rogue” employee. That’s total B.S. nothing is done by the employees without the direct or tacit approval of management. Otherwise they couldn’t run their own schemes.

  7. How could anyone be surprised by curruption in San Francisco City Government? There are what, 39,000, city employees in a city of approx 900,000 residents? Do the math on those and compare them to ANY large city of comparable size and geography and you will see something is amiss.

    Anyone who has lived in SF knows there’s nothing world class about it: streets, schools, taxes, cleanliness, parks, public transit, policing, fire, public works …. all a complete wreck.

    Every department in this city should be monitored and survelied for waste, fraud and corruption. And while you are at it take a look at the city employee pension program. Getting a job with the City/county of SF is joining one of the world’s greatest Ponzi Schemes. They have nothing on Madoff.

  8. It appears that all corruption charges lead to City Hall. One wonders how this is possible? Do they conduct weekend retreats in money laundering workshops and falsifying documents?

  9. What’s this you say? That SFMTA’s record of extending the probationary period on new hires was done only on black folks. Wait, what?! You’re saying that the only people to have their probation extended at SFMTA, they were all Black? This can’t be true? In such a progressive city like SF, we surely wouldn’t discriminate against black folks at SFMTA at an amazing disproportionate amount.

    Yet it happened for years, and still does. And no one cared. It’s public record, and it happened to a good friend of mine.

    1. There is no white alliance but there are lawsuits and grievances about white people being passed up for promotion (one that made the news was the police dept) and their supervisors truly were ignoring merit and years of service to look for anyone else, including family members or ppl their relatives had dated, anyone non-white. So while POC institutionalized racial injustice is horrific and real it doesn’t stop POC in positions of power from also abusing their power in city management.

    1. I bet she’s spiking her pension too. Just like that Director lady fro Laguna Honda who was allowed to transfer to SF General to spike out her pension, so she could retire and still eat at the public trough.

  10. Great reporting Joe!! Refreshing to see that Mission Local is scooping all other media outlets on these corruption investigations. Thank you!!

  11. There also has been and still remains a lack of leadership, oversight, integrity, ethics and accountability at SFMTA, DHR and EEO. How can a unit manager hire her entire family and ALL SFMTA MANAGERS do nothing starting with Jeffrey Tumlin…

    1. Oh this is very normal. This happened within the Homeless department too, the entire IT team is just friends and former colleagues of the IT manager. You know how it happens? The IT manager writes the job description, picks the candidates, sets the interview prompts, and selects the interview panel. How can this not be abused?

      There’s no external oversight for hiring. Watch out for rule of the list jobs too, as most classifications have been moved in this direction to essentially let hiring managers pick whoever they want based on “your application”

  12. HR at the San Francisco Airport Commission is just as bad. They get away with more being in their own isolated bubble.

  13. Not only does HR need to be investigated, the union representing the employee should be investigated as well. Doubtful the employee recieved fair union representation

  14. Joe, excellent job. So, bear with me as I am pretty thick.

    1. What was the legal status of the black employees claim before the settlement ? Did she have her own attorney? It just seems strange that if this had gone to court and the court approved the settlement that no one would have said something about it earlier.

    This smells oh so bad. There are probably other bombs waiting to go off too. But heads need to roll here.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *