Mayor London Breed, left, on July 8 introduces her pick for DA: Brooke Jenkins

Documents obtained by Mission Local show that the mayor’s office is overseeing minute details of newly appointed DA Brooke Jenkins’ office life. 

The mayor’s office has been fielding Jenkins’ press inquiries and sending out her media announcements. It also provided the District Attorney’s spokeswoman with the text of Jenkins’ recent memo supporting increased police surveillance, which was then disseminated on District Attorney letterhead.  

The documents were obtained via a public records request. 

The correspondences are principally between Robyn Burke, a public information officer who has worked some 15 years in the DA’s office, and Andrea Bruss, Mayor London Breed’s deputy chief of staff. Veteran staffers in the District Attorney’s office were confused and concerned when Bruss tailed Jenkins into a July 8 meeting with some 30 higher-level employees in the office. 

Veteran prosecutors, even those not enamored with ousted DA Chesa Boudin, were baffled by this move, which they felt was antithetical to the mission of an ostensibly independent office. 

But the contacts between Breed’s deputy chief of staff and the DA’s office did not stop there. 

At 6:11 a.m. on July 11, Bruss asked Burke in the DA’s office for a District Attorney letterhead template. Burke sent it to her at 6:22 a.m. 

At 9:52 a.m., Bruss sent Burke the text of Jenkins’ letter regarding a mayorally favored push to expand police access to private cameras in real-time. And at 11:36 a.m. Burke sent along that letter to Supervisor Aaron Peskin and Board of Supervisors clerk Victor Young. 

If not for the email chain divulged via public records request, the backstory of a document signed by Jenkins and appearing on DA stationery would not have been apparent. 

On that same day, Bruss, from the mayor’s office, sent Burke a press release for Jenkins’ July 12 press conference in a Tenderloin parking lot, in which she vowed a new era of accountability for area dope dealers. 

“Thanks for sending the Media Advisory for the 10:30 event tomorrow (please find it attached),” Bruss, from the mayor’s office, wrote. “Could you please send it out later tonight. I also included the press list I have.” 

Burke, from the DA’s office, tersely replied “Got it” two minutes later. 

Members of that press list couldn’t help but notice that the ensuing email sent along by Burke was the identical template for Mayor London Breed’s daily announcement of scheduled events, down to the subject line and three asterisks on either side of the words “media advisory.” Also, Jenkins’ name was spelled “Jenkin.” 

While that detail was muffed, the level of oversight the mayor’s office exercised over its appointee elsewhere was exacting. Bruss on July 8 wrote to Burke, providing her with the Chinese characters for Jenkins’ name (they loosely translate as “Jenkins Safety Good”). “If you send me the new proof we can verify,” the mayoral staffer instructed Burke. 

On July 11, Bruss sent Burke the Chinese characters reading “District Attorney’s Office” for new business cards. “See attached markup. Also below is the set of characters that should replace the bottom line on the left side,” she wrote. “On the right delete the English name and bold/enlarge the Chinese characters.”

An email to Bruss was returned by Jeff Cretan, the mayor’s spokesman. 

“The Mayor’s Office has provided some basic logistical support as part of the District Attorney’s transition,” he wrote. “This includes helping to ensure the appropriate staff in the office had certain documents to send during this period of transition. Our staff did not create or send out materials on the DA’s behalf.”

Jess Montejano, a Jenkins adviser and former adviser to Mayor Mark Farrell, confirmed to Mission Local that he has taken the lead on “drafting and getting approval for the DA’s statements.” He says he has been doing this on a volunteer basis, and is also volunteering to help in “day-to-day strategic communications and media relations as she continues to staff up.” 

This forces the question, however, of why the mayor’s office should be serving here as an intermediary. It is also unclear why the District Attorney’s office should rely upon the mayor’s office for Chinese translations, or why the mayor’s office should be dictating matters such as the layout of business cards in the DA’s office. It is unknown who is fielding the interview requests forwarded to the mayor’s office. 

Breed tapped Jenkins, the former face of the Boudin recall, to succeed her erstwhile boss on July 7. Mission Local is informed that Jenkins herself only learned she was selected for this post on July 6. She was sworn into office on July 8. 

Even members of the DA’s office who were not amenable to Jenkins said they felt she was “done no favors” by being thrust into the position with only hours to prepare, let alone days or weeks. 

But veteran staffers were still put off by the overt, hands-on behavior from the mayor’s office, which multiple office veterans confirmed was not exercised when Breed in 2019 appointed Suzy Loftus into George Gascón’s vacant seat. 

Quentin Kopp, a retired supervisor, judge and former ethics commissioner, said no rules were broken: “I don’t think there’s a law against it. If that’s what the DA wants to do, the DA is an independent public official. If she wants to run her office that way, I don’t think there’s any law preventing it.” 

That view was echoed by San Mateo County DA Steve Wagstaffe, who pointed out that the mayor has no legal authority to order around the DA. 

As for perception, however, that’s less clear-cut. 

“Perception is something I worry about every minute of every day,” he said. “I always want people to feel their DA is very impartial. All 58 DAs should always be concerned about whether there will be a perception of fairness and impartiality.” 

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Managing Editor/Columnist. 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 editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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31 Comments

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  1. Jenkins actually said that we can’t arrest our way out of this. After her performance during the recall, she effectively stipulates that she’s full of shit.

    Safer With Chesa.

  2. Jenkins wants Breed’s help securing an election win, and Breed wants Jenkins help tempering the negative press.

    Judicial independence is a tough sell these days – it doesn’t seem to be what the people want. SCOTUS had made a mockery of hoped for independence through lifetime appointments, and elected judicial representatives have their obvious vulnerabilities, as reported here.

  3. So exciting to actually have a competent District Attorney who is doing her job after the corruption, incompetence, cruelty, and criminality of boudin. It took a lot of volunteering, signature gathering, and voting, but we recalled the monster responsible for the loss of countless lives and millions of dollars worth of property. We finally have a DA who can restore the rule of law to our City. Thank you voters, Mayor Breed, and DA Jenkins.

    1. “Criminality”? That sounds familiar. Like what the POA put out during the election. And yes, the good thing about Breed’s role in all this is now we can all see “the monster responsible for the loss of countless lives and millions of dollars worth of property.” Thanks Joe.

  4. Have a been a communications staffer for public officials, I don’t see this as nefariously as others do. @The Kid says that “[Jenkins] should know how the DA’s office works.” Why do you conclude she doesn’t? It IS goofy and bad optics that the Mayor’s deputy COS is sitting in on a staff meeting at the DA, but it doesn’t have to mean Jenkins a puppet on a string. The rest of this stuff is just people who all work for the city trying to get a bunch of administrative stuff done quickly. Borrowing media advisory templates (Oh no! They both use three stars before and after the words “Media Advisory!” Did they use the same templates I remember using in the Senate from 2007? Scandalous!), helping with formatting business cards (perhaps in a specific template that the Mayor’s office has asked all city leaders to use? that would HORRIBLE!), and organizing pressers are not bribes or coercion. It’s just people getting the work done.

    None of this means Jenkins is a saint or a sinner. It’s just noise until proven otherwise.

    1. Do you honestly believe bold/enlarged Chines characters are part of a new business card template for SF higher-ups? Is there to be a Spanish translation?

      1. Rosh,

        Great to see your handle always.

        Come visit my place that is becoming a museum.

        I think that in cases such as the Jenkins appointment and subsequent mayoral search of selected case files and firing lawyers likely to interfere if Jenkins dumps selected folks.

        I think for at least the next 6 months that the DA’s office and all of its resources will be culled and compromised by the Remains of the Brown/Burton Machine.

        I love it.

        Really, I do.

        We’re all gonna learn lots about how many lawyers work on what and staffing and the like over next 6 months and it’s already a blast.

        Go Giants !

        h.

  5. Doesn’t seem like a “hit” piece; seems more like a “here’s stuff that’s going on” piece. The “stuff” seems to keep increasing. Will be interesting to see what happens as more rope is paid out.

    1. Maybe, maybe not. But two pieces criticising the same city official on the same day, when she had only been in office for 10 days, could appear to some to be representative of ideological bias.

  6. There may not be a ‘law’ against it or ‘rules’ broken, but if a Deputy Chief of Staff to the President of the United States followed a US Attorney General into a senior staff meeting, and produced communications on DOJ letterhead, it would be impossible to understand.

  7. Remember too: the current City Attorney David Chiu was installed by the Mayor. No other candidate ran against him in the recent election. This Mayor is installing lots of her own people to positions that are generally chosen and voted on by us, the tax paying electorate. Rigging our local government. To my mind: THE critical reason to vote against these recalls (where the elected office holder has not committed crimes).is to stop the power grabs and rigging.

  8. The screen-shotted email in the article shows that Andrea Bruss is using a private email address (a Gmail account) to conduct official business. This makes FOIA requests and Sunshine laws hard to enforce.

    San Francisco should have laws or guidelines prohibiting using private emails for official business

    1. my personal experience at DPH is that many workers are forced to use their personal phones to conduct business. that is especially true for contactors.

    1. And if the DA and the Mayor were fighting all the time, Joe would write an article saying that the city’s leaders are squabbling and dysfunctional. So how does Jenkins win here?

      1. No, Joe wouldn’t do that.

        Respectfully, you don’t know Jack about Joe.

        JE

        1. Yes, Joe would. Just like he filters out comments that are critical of him. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the fire, friend.

          1. Nah, Dude.

            I don’t filter out comments that are “critical of me.” I filter out dopey comments like those from anyone who calls himself “choad” but insists he must be heard for the greater good. “Heat” and “fire” from half-bright, self-righteous trolls is something nobody needs, it turns out. Comments like this make our site dumber and I’m not obligated to run them.

            But, hey, now you’ve had your say, “friend.”

            JE

  9. I actually don’t think this DA is entitled to a lot of patience from us, the voters. She should know how the DA’s office works and was the primary critic of the previous DA and his policies. I would expect her to have, at least a few, clear plans on how to do the job better than her predecessor. If she didn’t have any ideas, then why was it essential that we recall the DA before his term ended? The recallers never really said what the new DA was supposed to do with any specificity. Their leader appears to be representing them well so far…

    1. The Kid is right. When you lead a movement to recall a Democratically-Elected Official by criticizing everything they do as making us “feel” “unsafe” even if crime rates are down across the board, you need to have a plan in place, you need policy ideas. You had well over a year to come up with policies. And when you’re appointed by the mayor, if you have any desire for credibility, you need to separate yourself so that the PEOPLE OF SAN FRANCISCO (all of the people, not just the well-off white/Chinese ones who backed the recall’s lies and misinformation) have some faith that you’re not just a shill, a puppet, doing the mayor’s bidding (read: freeing the mayor’s brother from prison, supporting the mayor’s desired policies like SFPD surveillance) and if you can’t be trusted to decide the font of a document or business card, that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
      Just look at Jenkins’s statements to date, in all interviews and speeches and the major problem is clear: she is full of generalities and platitudes, but no actual policy pronouncements. She wants “accountability” and the “tourists and citizens” to “feel safe”. This is all meaningless drivel to obscure the truth: she takes her cues from the mayor, and she has no actual policy ideas of her own, just an unpopular and ineffective waste of money that is …. the failed war on drugs.

      1. You don’t say what agency city or state you work for, so, will assume it is San Francisco. That being said, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out. The voters have spoken, heard these arguments and were not swayed. If you are as principled as all that, find some other place to look for employment. Citizens want a change from our streets filled with broken car windows but no one going to jail.
        Crime is down because it has become pointless to report it. Deaths from overdoses, that is a statistical reality, not that those pushing the fatal drugs is not a criminal, they are, not their victims, whose only fault is being an addict.
        Change in the District Attorneys may not work, Mayor Breeds effort to assist in an attempt to help it work, not bad in my view. If all this fails, voters will try something else.
        As I said before, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out

  10. ‘..,Quentin Kopp, a retired supervisor, judge and former ethics commissioner, said no rules were broken: “I don’t think there’s a law against it. If that’s what the DA wants to do, the DA is an independent public official. If she wants to run her office that way, I don’t think there’s any law preventing it.”…’

    I second that motion

  11. You don’t seem eager to let her get started and judge her based on her performance. Women of color often face these types of doubts when they take on big positions (as your previous articles have demonstrated), but I for one am going to keep an open mind and let her performance on the job guide my opinions.

    1. yeah agreed. let’s see how she does before jumping to conclusions. I gave the same courtesy to Boudin. why not give Jenkins a little more time than a few days/a week before deciding that the sky is falling?

    2. Yes, two hit pieces by Joe on Jenkins on the same day? After just 10 days in office?

      Whatever happened to giving new officials a chance?

      1. Hey Folicle,

        What’s with the handle ?

        Anyway, Joe runs the best news site in San Francisco and he and his fantastic staff get by one donor at a time.

        That’s the really most criminal thing in the overall scene in my opinion.

        Billionaires with Right Wing views buy and create entire publications as they’ve done long ago with the Chronicle and then with the Examiner and they strangled the Guardian and Weekly and herded a couple of hundred quality writers …

        And, forced them to write and support the likes of Brooke Jenkins with droves and droves of positive media work.

        And, you bitch about two honest pieces to open honest discussion in the last open forum ??

        Do y’all think that Boudin’s crusade to End Cash Bail deserves consideration as a case of First Impression on a level with Brown V Topeka ?

        Go Giants !!

        h.