Mission Local has obtained a purported Sept. 11 letter from former San Francisco HR manager Rebecca Sherman, in which she expresses sorrow and outlines a long-running forgery plot culminating in a Black MTA worker being given a bogus $514,000 discrimination settlement Sherman allegedly crafted out of whole cloth.  “I am writing this to you because I made a terrible decision that I followed with a series of additional terrible decisions, and I have created a giant mess,” reads the opening line of the email from Sherman to Katie Porter, the deputy city attorney advising the Department of Human Resources.  “I shouldn’t have gotten into this to begin with, and should have, at so many points along the way, tried to make this right. I resigned this morning and will fully cooperate with whatever the process is from here on out.”  Mission Local obtained the letter via a public records request. Within it, Sherman describes a discrimination case filed in 2017 by a Black female Municipal Transportation Agency worker. She states she felt that her own colleagues in the DHR’s Equal Employment Opportunity office and at MTA viewed the employee “as not credible … generally a complainer” and felt her complaint “had no merit.” Sherman disagreed: “I wanted to investigate.” She additionally stated that “the prior investigation was rushed and I did not believe the record supported the conclusion.” 

2020-09-11 R. Sherman Email by Joe Eskenazi on Scribd

Sherman wrote that she had “new information regarding [the] closed complaint” and brought this to Linda Simon, who oversees 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, despite Sherman’s contentions and the additional information she uncovered during her own investigations, her boss Simon still did not feel the worker in question was due any remuneration from the city.  “That is where I made my first terrible decision,” Sherman writes. “I shared with [the worker] 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.”  In short: Sherman claims that the aggrieved worker, who her managers did not feel was credible or had a meritorious complaint, filed suit against the city because Sherman stated she disagreed with her colleagues’ assessments.  Sherman writes that she told the worker that “I was going to share my findings and recommendations with my manager and then it would go to Ed (at the time)” — presumably Ed Reiskin, the former director of the MTA.  “And then I froze. I did nothing for so long and was spinning out because I was afraid to have those difficult conversations, whatever the substance.” 
Former Department of Human Resources manager Rebecca Sherman on Sept. 7 allegedly sent this email to a Muni worker indicating the worker would soon receive a promotion and a $514,000 settlement. This email, however, is a purported forgery — as was that big settlement.
Sherman goes on to write that she repeatedly lied to the worker, telling her that her claims were under review — when, in fact, Sherman had not yet presented them to her superiors, whom she was certain would spurn them.  Sherman writes that she continued to string along the worker, explaining to her the process her claims would need to take — but lying about where the actual complaint was in that process, which was nowhere. At this point, Sherman claims she undertook the momentous step of concocting a bogus settlement agreement.   “As time went on, the lies got bigger as I continued to explain why [the worker] hadn’t seen a determination, settlement offer, etc.” she wrote. “Ultimately, I drafted a document based on other settlement agreements I’d seen, met with and showed it to [the worker], but continued to lie to [the worker] about why [she] couldn’t have a copy, why it wasn’t signed, etc. I made things up like ‘oh, they’re considering XX term now’ or ‘they’re reviewing possible positions for appointment.’ It was all a lie and I continued to make it worse and worse.”  Eventually, Sherman would allegedly forge three signatures on that bogus settlement. Including Porter’s.  “Before I lose the will to say it — I drafted a document appearing to be a proposed settlement agreement, I electronically imposed fake signatures and I sent it to [the worker] and held it out as though it were real,” Sherman continues.  Mission Local earlier obtained a copy of the forged settlement, which proposed paying the worker just under $514,000. The worker subsequently dismissed her legal case against the city after receiving it.  “Obviously [the worker] has not received the money … is suspicious, confused, and upset while I continued to lie for awhile, there is clearly no way out other than to confess. I told [her] I fucked up.”  Sherman resigned on Sept. 11, and wrote this letter on that same day.  On Sept. 17, the city’s Black Employee Alliance wrote a letter to DHR head Micki Callahan, claiming that “multiple employees” who had filed discrimination complaints “were manipulated, aggrieved, assaulted and defrauded by DHR-EEO” and provided with “fraudulent” settlement agreements. One day later, Callahan wrote a letter to much of San Francisco city government, admitting to “corruption at DHR” and blaming the singular actions of Sherman, whom she labeled a “rogue employee.”  This account did not satiate the Black Employee Alliance, which accused both Callahan and Simon of negligence and for promulgating a longstanding bias against employees of color.  Multiple San Francisco department HR officials subsequently told Mission Local that complaints they’d filed on behalf of minority workers specifically alleging discrimination had been neutered by DHR to merely indicate discontent with job placement.  On Sept. 30, an attorney hired by Simon sent letters to individual members of the Black Employee Alliance demanding they “cease-and-desist from making any public statements, oral or written, that further disparage Ms. Simon’s character or competency.”  This missive was not well-received. The Black Employee Alliance will be holding a rally outside City Hall at 1 p.m. today.  The allegations against Sherman, meanwhile, bewildered and crushed HR personnel both centrally at DHR and across the departments. She was described as a “wonderful human being” and “one of the good ones.”  Curiously, her license to practice law was suspended by the Alabama State Bar on July 31, 2020. While the bar association confirmed to Mission Local that this was a “disciplinary action,” it has not yet responded to our request to explain why.  Sherman has not replied to numerous calls or messages.  “I don’t have the words right now to explain the embarrassment, shame, regret I feel,” concludes her Sept. 11 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.”    Support Mission Local.

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...

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    1. City HR departments are not necessarily heros. A lot of department directors who are sycophants to the department head and create phony positions for friends and family. They defend reports of improper hiring that go to the CSC and pretend they have no idea the executive team was twisting this all along. Same bad Apple agencies again and again. Then they try to hide behind “racial equality” discussions- Harlan has been there for 10 years and suddenly he’s interested in his own agency’s racial equity failings around the time the FBI came knocking…bad Apple agency that is the puc

      1. Half of the prior department executives at human resources are friends of Micki or Linda. Take clear note of this letter, Rebecca was unable to be a champion for the employee because no one would give a ****. There would be no finding regardless because the system is completely opaque. You can’t even do a sunshine request on the information. Then what can you do? Appeal it to the civil service commission who will once again, 99% of the time side with the employer? And then what? Go and do a protracted lawsuit such as this? At this time, linda simon will simply sit there and delay delay or there’s not enough evidence at that point to find an actual finding.

  1. Sounds like Rebecca was under immense stress and anxiety. Who wouldn’t be, working under an unscrupulous boss who essentially dismissed credible claims in order to protect corrupt head honchos. Linda Simon sounds like a piece of work. Glad I’ve never had to deal with her.

    1. How could Simon assert “there would not be a finding [of discrimination]” about Sherman’s follow-up investigation before Sherman’s actual investigation? That’s the point of an investigation to probe and conduct more fact finding. Simon should not be making conclusory determinations *before* the investigation. And … Simon continues to oppress and intimidate Black employees by lawyering up and sending silly cease-and-desist orders.

  2. Never Forget: HR Departments are there to protect the organization and not the worker. Unions are what protect workers from corrupted HR Departments.

  3. Let me get this straight. Ms Sherman felt so badly about the situation, that she did *just enough* to cause the person to do the one thing that’d most likely lead to no satisfactory result any time soon: drop the suit.

    And it was all just *so* troubling for Ms Sherman, that she chose to forge a settlement agreement in more than one case, even.

    Hmm… Could it be something else is happening?

  4. Again, excellent follow-up Mission Local! This resignation letter goes to the extent of the dysfunction (or “corruption”) within the City’s Department of Human Resources EEO. Rebecca Sherman reported to Linda Simon, EEO Director. Yet her resignation letter was addressed to a Deputy City Attorney- such little trust/confidence she had in L.Simon. And her letter speaks to a long-time feeling of isolation and lack of support from L.Simon where R.Sherman, as an EEO Manager, had little say or support in her review of discrimination complaints. Likewise, an apparent lack of support from another EEO Manager, Matthew Valdez.

    And rather than stepping up and taking responsibility, Linda Simon/her attorney, send a “cease & desist” letter, basically threatening whistleblowers!

    1. Agree! It’s telling that Sherman directed her letter to the CAO instead of Simon. Like Vaksberg, Matthew Valdez appears to be a sycophant/toady of Simon. Whatever happened to “neutral third-party investigations?”

      What’s more troubling is now that Simon is feeling the heat — and rightfully so because her department is under fire — has lawyered up to continue her oppression of employees who speak out, who blow the whistle on the corruption in her department. This constant intimidation is precisely what so many Black and Brown employees who filed complaints have felt for years. Simon’s attempts to silence genuine matters of public concern are outrageous. She comes across as whiny.

      Mission Local: keep digging!

  5. *Alabama* State Bar? If this person was unable to pass the California State Bar that should have been reason number one for not hiring her.

    Will this city employee receive a pension after costing the city more than $500,000 in a settlement that the city would never have otherwise agreed to?

    1. Mr. Mr. — 

      Being a practicing lawyer, to the best of my knowledge, is not a prerequisite for working in HR for the city of San Francisco. As for the settlement, the city will argue it is not binding, as it is an alleged forgery with forged signatures.

      As for whether Ms. Sherman receives a pension, she was only a city employee for five years. To lose her (meager) pension, I believe she would have to be convicted of a moral turpitude crime and then stripped by the retirement board.

      Yours,

      JE

      1. Pension surrender: I hear-tell there was a employee at SFPUC Wastewater Enterprise that cut a secret deal, SFERS surrender in exchange for no charges, it saved SFPUCs reputation(?) as this person was in a position of trust and close to the AGM. The FBI raided SouthEast Plant about 3-4 years ago and found a one person fence ring with PCs TVs other items still in boxes bought with City purchase orders. The way you can find out if a pension is missing is if the former staffer does not show up in the website Transparent California.

    2. DHR EEO investigators are not required to be law school graduates or lawyers, and thus members of the State Bar of California. In fact, Linda Simon is not even law school graduate and is not a member of the State Bar. Yes, you heard right — the department that is charged with ensuring the City complies with federal and state anti-discrimination laws is led by an individual who never graduated from law school and is not a California-licensed attorney. But to your point about Sherman, it is possible that Sherman never took the California bar exam.

      1. There are two critical reasons EEO Investigators are not required to be lawyers: (1) The salary costs to the tax payor of DHR EEO Investigators (1233 and 1231 positions) is significantly lower than attorney’s with the City Attorney’s Office (CAT), where DHR EEO has significantly more employees. (2) The specified authority of DHR EEO as established in the City Charter does not relegate them any actual legal prosecutory powers. For this reason CAT is deferred to if in the course of an investigation legal action is determined.

        The fact that almost half of DHR EEOs current staff are active or have previously been licensed attorneys is circumstantial to skillsets that lawyers attain in regard to investigatory processes, and more so that EEO staff in particular almost always have a background in civil rights due to person convictions. This is evident in the reasoning provided by Rebecca Sherman. She claims she was motivated by such a strong ethical imperative that in the end overwhelmed her common sense. Or so it seems.

        The alternative agencies to CCSFs DHR EEO are the State of California’s DFEH EEO Division, and the Federal EEOC. These agencies essentially mirror the functional processes and workplace realities faced by DHR EEO staff – this is an industry spanning thousands of workers shaped by the same case laws and constraints across the board. Any “better outcome” from one agency to the next will only ever be circumstantial when the investigatory processes are followed correctly.

        I’ve said a lot, but my underlying point is that no system created by people is wholly functional and good. The emergence of EEO divisions within corporations and government institutions was a hard fought struggle for civil rights leaders for generations. Let us not throw out the baby with the bath water. Let us instead discuss how to retain more EEO agencies – not less. Let us discuss the underlying issues shaping EEO procedure, such as competing or contradictory case law and a lack of legislative clarity on when and to what extent a case can be considered discriminatory to begin with. So much of this results from a lack of genuine leadership at the front end, even though we only ever focus on the result, and feel anger towards those at the end of the process. Rebecca Sherman absolutely violated the portion of the social compact that EEO is mandated to uphold, but why she did it is as important – if not more so important – than that she did it at all.

        1. Sup DHR employee 😉 I hope this case lights the fire to make EEO more cognizant of how they treat cases.

        2. Yes, as to the last part of your last sentence, that’s especially true when it doesn’t make sense.

          The answer, whatever it may be, could only be found by thorough examination of the particulars in the affected cases. And let’s not forget it appears to be more than one case.

  6. There should be a revamp in the City DHR Office. When you file a complaint to the DHR against the Management judgment always goes against employee. They operate like they are one group of family.

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