A trove of emails and texts obtained by Mission Local reveal that Rebecca Sherman’s boss at the Department of Human Resources was repeatedly informed in August of Sherman’s suspicious and incongruous behavior — as well as an apparent series of lies and misrepresentations Sherman made to an aggrieved city worker.
These documents are dated more than a month before Sherman, a former HR manager, resigned and penned a revelatory email admitting to a series of lies and misrepresentations culminating in the out-and-out forgery of a $514,000 settlement with a different aggrieved city worker.
Following that bombshell, on Sept. 18 longtime Department of Human Resources (DHR) director Micki Callahan wrote a revelatory email of her own to Mayor London Breed, every supervisor, and a good swath of city government with the jarring subject line, “Corruption at DHR…”
In it, Callahan outlined Sherman’s alleged misdeeds and labeled her a “rogue employee.”
And yet, as early as Aug. 4 — and multiple times thereafter — Callahan was informed, in writing, of eerily similar disturbing behavior, factual misrepresentations, and discordant statements being made by Sherman.
But it does not appear that any proactive steps were taken to confront Sherman or investigate her troubling behavior. Instead, well-placed sources throughout the Department of Human Resources were blindsided when the scandal broke some six weeks later. Those sources referred to Sherman as “a wonderful human being” and “one of the good ones.”
The warnings disregarded by DHR higher-ups came in the form of multiple emails sent to Callahan by Assistant Chief Nicol Juratovac, a 23-year veteran with the San Francisco Fire Department.
Juratovac filed a retaliation claim with the Department of Human Resources in October 2019 regarding purportedly trumped-up disciplinary charges; in January, Sherman was assigned to investigate.
As early as May 2020, Sherman indicated to Juratovac that a determination letter was forthcoming — and, what’s more, one that would be favorable to Juratovac.
Starting in July, legions of texts and emails reveal that Sherman repeatedly told Juratovac that the determination letter would be complete in days, or even hours. But the letter was never delivered to Juratovac — and still has not been.
The agonizing, months-long delay was justified to Juratovac by Sherman via a purported series of unfortunate events: Relatives falling sick or dying; tropical storms knocking out power; technical glitches, or even her phone being dropped into the sink.
By late July, Sherman claimed the letter had been sent to Callahan for the department head’s authorization and signature, and could be ready in “an hour max.”
Days later, on Aug. 4, Juratovach wrote to Callahan querying about this.
“Ms. Sherman informed me that after you reviewed the determination letter draft on Friday [July 31], that you had reviewed and signed the letter yesterday and it was to be sent to me this morning,” reads the Aug. 4 email. “That has not happened, due to a string of technical difficulties that Ms. Sherman was experiencing.”
On Aug. 5, Juratovac followed up: “I was told yesterday [by Sherman] via text that you had signed the letter and that it was going to be sent yesterday,” Juratovac wrote. “I am on duty today and fear that any continued delay such as this will perpetuate more retaliation, harassment, and trauma that I have been suffering from.”
Callahan did not write back until Aug. 17 — her first, last, and only response to Juratovac. And she claimed that — despite Sherman’s repeated claims that Callahan had signed the letter — there was, in fact, no letter to sign.
“I cannot issue a determination until I receive and review the investigative report and recommendations,” Callahan wrote to Juratovac. “I assure you that when I receive it, my determination will be issued as soon as possible.”
When you dial Micki Callahan’s desk line, you’re greeted with a message stating “Micki Callahan is officially retired from the City and County of San Francisco.”
Callahan had long been slated to depart at month’s end. After the Sherman fiasco broke in September, for whatever reason, that timeline accelerated; her last day in the office was Oct. 8 or 9.
We have asked DHR’s spokesman, then, to explain this incongruous situation: Why, after Callahan was informed on multiple occasions that Sherman was claiming Callahan had signed this letter — a letter Callahan would subsequently state does not exist — was early action regarding Sherman not taken?
This question was not answered as, “all of Rebecca Sherman’s cases are under an ongoing investigation.”
Yet this remains a particularly vexing issue for Juratovac. And, now, her team of attorneys.
Callahan’s answer to Juratovac’s multiple emails simply makes no sense to Therese Cannata, a lawyer representing Juratovac.
A reasonable answer to Juratovac, Cannata says, would’ve been “I don’t know what you’re talking about; no letter was ever delivered to me and I’m going to get to the bottom of this.”
Another reasonable answer would’ve been “We don’t see any evidence there is such a report and we have taken this matter away from Ms. Sherman and reassigned it.”
What’s unreasonable is to blithely state that there’s no letter to sign — when it’s been made clear your subordinate has been claiming there is one and you’ve signed it — and, apparently, let things go at that.
“As Sherman’s superior, you were under an obligation to supervise her work, obtain regular updates, and develop your own thorough understanding of the investigation. Failure to obtain updates would represent an amazing level of ineptitude on your part, which seems unlikely,” Cannata wrote Callahan in a Sept. 24 missive she says has not been returned.
“Even assuming you were in the dark in the early stages of the investigation, you received numerous emails starting in early August 2020 where Assistant Chief Juratovac clearly laid out her understanding of the status of the investigation. Not once did you correct any misunderstandings that you may now claim exist.”
Sherman, Cannata continued in that letter, “is not the ‘rogue agent’ you have painted her to be; there is no dispute that Ms. Sherman made her various representations to Assistant Chief Juratovac concerning the status and results of her investigation in her role and capacity as Equal Employment Opportunity Manager with DHR, and under your direct supervision. On multiple occasions, either Ms. Sherman or AC Juratovac commented on the status of the investigation and Ms. Sherman’s substantive findings, and you failed to correct those statements.”
Cannata’s firm is also representing Kathy Broussard, the MTA worker to whom Sherman allegedly passed that forged $514,000 settlement.
Broussard’s case emboldened critics of DHR, who wonder just how the hell Sherman managed to run so far off the rails without intervention from her superiors.
And if that was a pertinent question before, it seems all the more so now: Now that we know Sherman’s apparent misrepresentations — misrepresentations about her boss’ own actions — were being reported directly to her boss.
On Sept. 15, Juratovac was tersely informed by DHR’s Equal Employment Opportunity manager, Linda Simon, that Sherman “had not completed the investigation of your complaint.”
This came after more than a month of Juratovac writing to DHR higher-ups, and informing them that Sherman was claiming the only remaining step was a signature being affixed on that determination letter.
The dozens of texts and emails Sherman sent to Juratovac stringing her along for months regarding the state of that letter would appear to be a deception verging on performance art.
Assistant Chief Nicol Juratovac is a city native who grew up in a single-parent household in San Francisco’s housing projects raised by a Korean immigrant mother. She says she is the first woman, Asian American, and LGBTQ person to achieve the rank of assistant chief. This has happened despite, as she puts it, the fire department “weaponizing its disciplinary investigative system against me in a retaliatory manner.”
Juratovac does not seem to be the “go along, get along” type of person who ingratiates herself into San Francisco’s City Family. As she noted in a June letter to Sherman, one source of retaliation against her is “a division commander who failed to report drinking that was occurring at one of his stations, something that I ended up reporting that resulted in actual findings of alcohol being consumed and cocaine present in a member’s system.”
But this is San Francisco, and no good deed goes unpunished. Juratovac has, by her count, been brought up on disciplinary charges seven times. Two of those cases are pending, but Juratovac says she’s beaten the other five — despite hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of city time being expended in the effort.
“All I wish,” she writes, “is to be able to go to work and do my job.”
But that isn’t happening. San Francisco continues to burn, physically and metaphysically.