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.”