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.”
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.”
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.”