La Raza Community Resource Center. Photo by Yujie Zhou.

The La Raza Community Resource Center was passed over for $8 million in government rent relief grants following a series of recent conflicts between executive director Gabriel Medina and staff members calling for a change in leadership. 

The money will now be distributed among other grantees, including the Eviction Defense Collaborative, Mission Neighborhood Centers and Catholic Charities. 

“My message to the board of the director of La Raza CRC is, ‘You guys need to work on what’s happening in your organization,’” said District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen at Wednesday’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting. “This is bleeding into the money that goes to the community, the community you serve.”

Ronen emphasized that the Mission would not be without resources, and six of the seven grantees are based in the Mission. “I feel very confident the other organizations listed here are phenomenal. They will get this money into the hands of the people that need it.” 

La Raza was also chosen earlier to distribute the first round of rent relief checks, and still has $900,000 to “sustain the La Raza team in serving community members [to] complete the application process from that round,” said Brian Cheu from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.  

The cut on Wednesday occured on the same day that La Raza’s Board of Directors released a statement reporting that “a third-party workplace investigations specialist” and “an outside accounting auditor” had cleared Medina of any charges. 

“There are no material findings, no misconduct, no policy violations, and no mismanagement,” said the statement. “We stand behind the results and in support of our Executive Director Gabriel Medina.”

The statement added that “the La Raza CRC’s three-fold growth, from managing less than $1M to more than $4M in operations since 2016, has put pressure on our staff team, a situation compounded by the pandemic, increased community demand, and the change from a long-incumbent director to our new leadership.”

Seven of La Raza’s current 20-some employees, however, were not convinced, according to Carl Larsen Santos, La Raza’s legal director and the spokesperson for the opposition.

“That’s not what a hard transition looks like,” Santos said. “In a difficult transition, you don’t have the entire legacy leadership and majority of the staff saying that they have no confidence in the new director.”

At least seven staff members  “believe the investigation was biased,” said Santos. “The investigator did not speak with any of the staff who resigned, even though they were among the staff who experienced the most mistreatment.”

“It’s very common that investigators do not speak to former employees, because they’re no longer involved in the organization,” said Krista Mitzel, La Raza’s legal counsel. “They spoke to 15 current employees who are involved in the organization and who have experiences.”

Mitzel also faulted the way dissenting employees brought their differences to the Board of Supervisors. “It was too bad that they went about this in such a public way, when it was really more an internal personnel matter that is typically handled among the staff and the organization itself.”

Santos was among those La Raza employees who aired their displeasure at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting. “They were basically putting on public record, trying to say that there were no issues, that everything had been done correctly, and that there was no mistreatment of staff or labor violations or anything,” he said. “So, I felt that I couldn’t let that go unanswered.”

For more than half a century, La Raza has provided social services, legal and educational assistance to the immigrant community. Last January, Medina took over as the new executive director from Melba Maldonado, who had led the Center for 25 years. 

About a month ago, current and former La Raza employees held multiple demonstrations demanding a change of leadership. The resulting conflict laid bare the intense discontent within the organization. “The great majority of the staff have lost confidence in the ED,” read an unsigned flyer distributed by protestors, quoting Medina’s “precarious handling of finances and certain programs, his mistreatment of staff, and his failure to take responsibility and address any of the problems.“

Over the past month, the situation has continued to deteriorate, both inside and outside La Raza, with today’s Budget Committee meeting as a breaking point. “It’s ruining the reputation of the organization. And it’s incredibly problematic,” said Ronen.

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REPORTER. Yujie Zhou is our newest reporter and came on as an intern after graduating from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She is a full-time staff reporter as part of the Report for America program that helps put young journalists in newsrooms. Before falling in love with the Mission, Yujie covered New York City, studied politics through the “street clashes” in Hong Kong, and earned a wine-tasting certificate in two days. She’s proud to be a bilingual journalist. Follow her on Twitter @Yujie_ZZ.

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  1. Let’s be clear: Gabriel Medina is politically and professionally inexperienced, and merely coasting on his father’s (limited) success as a District 11 supervisor in the 90’s. Everything he gets involved with, he scorches and ruins. He’s well-known around the city as being a phony, because his actions don’t match up with his words. Anyone can show up to a rally with a bullhorn, and scream for justice. This role was not a good fit for him, because he’s alienating the very community he claims to stump for.

  2. Medina and La Raza Board Chair Sarah Sousa are close friends. She would never fire him , she prefers sacrifice the organization than do the right thing. Bravo Supervisor Ronan! Gracias!

    1. Agreed. She goes where the money/resources/connections are: how do you think she got the job working for Aaron Peskin in D3? Follow the money and connections.

  3. The link to this meeting… the part about La Raza funding starts at min 45. The hearing is quite long but the last handful of comments contained some seriously jaw-dropping testimony. The comments section starts around 2:20 I believe. Lots of recognition for La Raza’s reputation and asking of funds, but also some really wild and disturbing testimony regarding management. Too bad everyone only has 2 min to speak. There could’ve been a lot more that we didn’t even get to hear about! La Raza’s good reputation is well known so it’s a real shame things have come to this! I’m just glad residents will still get their rental assistance since it sounds like the money will be distributed to the other non profits. With so many people just a check away from homelessness here, we need the city to help protect our communities.

  4. The money will go to the community, bottom line ! Medina’s ego and anger is what is the more affected here, if he truly cares about the “community ” he will partner with the other 3 orgs to ensure everyone will be served!

  5. La Raza has a long standing history in The Mission. The problems happen when they just start going after grants and stop serving the community. If Hillary Ronen is distributing funds they didn’t receive all I can say is watch out. She is the most incompetent Supervisor and has her own agenda.She should get her house in order instead of commenting on others.

  6. Being an Executive Director of an organization is not an easy job. Gabriel Medina should be humble and acknowledge this was not the right role for him, before continuing to ruin this organization and drag its reputation through the mud. The board and everyone enabling him should encourage him to do so. La comunidad en la mision knows exactly what’s going on behind the scenes, including this sham investigation. What kind of legitimate investigation does not include staff behind the allegations and there at the time of wrongdoing? Regardless, everyone knows how he treats people, and we will not forget everyone who enabled this to go on this long.

  7. Not just too many SF employees, too many highly paid SF employees that are hired to dream up new programs for future projects that require hiring more employees. There is reason SF has a long history of corruption in high places and why it is so hard to keep good workers. High level appointees are members of the city family that prefers chaos. Lying, conniving, and massaging facts is stressful work.

  8. Los empleados que renunciaron,
    No fueron entrevistados porque obviamente no convenia. Ademas estos investigadores son amigos o conocidos de la junta y director!

  9. Who made the decision to cut LA Raza out? This was a budget and finance decision in which Ronen is on committee?

    A cut-throat corporate board would have Medina out tomorrow and have a PR professional running damage control. If you read between the lines, Ronen’s message is ‘ax your ED or expect more of the same.’

    1. NP are notorious for low pay, in fighting, staff turnover . Yes, the budget finance committee isn’t going to fund a director of La Raza who maybe potential political challenger to Mayor Breed.

      1. Gabriel Medina doesn’t stand a chance in Hell of running for office: not for District Supervisor, and definitely not for Mayor. Look at his resume on social media, and you’ll see that he’s flip-flopped around for various social causes, local political clubs, and Latino(a)-serving nonprofits.

        He’s unstable, can’t hold down a job very long, and probably feels entitled to leadership positions, even though he’s not qualified. Just like his father was in the 90’s, after he served as the D11 district supervisor: look it up. Medina is toxic waste, and ruins everything he gets involved in.

  10. Let everything come to light by interviewing all those that were mistreated at La Raza. Then a more complete picture should emerge.

  11. “It’s very common that investigators do not speak to former employees, because they’re no longer involved in the organization,” said Krista Mitzel, La Raza’s legal counsel. “They spoke to 15 current employees who are involved in the organization and who have experiences.”

    What a crock of crap. As long as there are no victims currently working here, then things must be all honky-dory? Sounds like something I would expect to hear from the police internal affairs office.

  12. ‘“It’s very common that investigators do not speak to former employees, because they’re no longer involved in the organization,” said Krista Mitzel, La Raza’s legal counsel. ‘
    Oh wow, now that’s quite the gaslighting there. What proper investigators do: ‘“It’s very common that investigators do not speak to former employees, because they’re not involved in the **investigation**”. Let me add a wrinkle here just to highlight her nonsense: By her logic, how would the band of witnesses called in the Theranos trial have looked like?

  13. So all of these nonprofits are interchangeable, able to adapt their mission to accommodate whatever funding comes down the pike from the City. The only real difference is which individuals and networks get the lubricant for their efforts.

    Why are city employees not disbursing rent relief funds directly to our neighbors in need without having to pay redundant and wasteful overhead?

    One of the weaker links in the outsourcing to nonprofit model is that the public gets to suffer the drama of the internal struggles of these agencies and their itinerant staffers when they boil over from time to time.

    1. As documented in today’s article regarding the low level of city employee staffing, it seems we need over 10% more city employees just to manage the current workload.

      Even if the The City took over the functions of the multitude of non-profits, you’d still end up with a ton of redundant and wasteful overhead + the inevitable corruption and scandals.

      1. Per the State Controller, SF had 39,199 city employees for 875,010 residents in 2020. LA had 61,644 employees for 3,923,341 residents. This works out to 4.5 city employees per 1,000 residents for SF, and 1.6 for LA. The ratio is .9 for San Diego, .8 for San Jose, and 1.3 for Oakland.

        1. San Francisco is the only City and County in California. There is a County of Los Angeles and a City of Los Angeles. The City and County of San Francisco administers both city and county (state and federal) programs. That’s why San Francisco appears to have more public sector employees than LA City.

          1. yeah, yeah,… whatever!
            you forgot to mention prop 13, btw.
            $13,000,000,000 and 39,000 SF gov workers still serve only a population of 880,000.

        2. If SF, as a “City &County”, employed x number, then the proper comparison would be the number of employees in LA County.

          1. That is, the comparison would be to the total number of local government employees in all of the various cities including the City of LA and the total number of county employees, if you get my point.

        3. Could it be SF is city and county, and the others are just cities thereby increasing the departments (Sheriff, Assessor/Recorder, etc.) SF also runs Airport, PUC, MTA, and other entities that may not be present in other cities. In addition a large number of people converge to SF during the day therefore using residing population may not be suitable. A former employee and resident.

      2. This has been a great deal of outsourcing from relatively accountable public employees to wholly unaccountable private nonprofit corporations and their staffers. I’d rather workers be accountable and make decent money with benefits than be worked to exhaustion by nonprofit martyrs.