Sep 27, 2022 - News

SF mayor to stop asking for undated resignation letters

Mayor London Breed

Mayor London Breed. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

London Breed's office says the mayor will stop requiring city commissioners to sign undated resignation letters after a report last week uncovered the practice.

  • But questions loom.

Context: Through a public records request, the SF Standard's Michael Barba found that a Breed staffer had asked police commissioner Max Carter-Oberstone in April, to sign a "draft" resignation letter as a condition of his appointment.

  • The mayor's office said such letters have "never been invoked or used in any way," but were "reserved for the most dire situations of inappropriate behavior or dereliction of duties."
  • It's unclear whether Breed initiated the practice or took cues from former San Francisco mayors.
  • The mayor's office did confirm that all existing letters would be rescinded.

Why it matters: City commissions are intended to act as independent bodies, but the existence of undated resignation letters calls into question whether the mayor has a powerful way to influence them.

  • Today, for instance, under the city charter, the mayor cannot remove a police commissioner without the board of supervisors' consent. But having a resignation letter in-hand could be a way for the mayor to circumvent those rules and cut commissioners at will.

What they're saying: "It appears to be an attempt by the mayor to control commissioners," Supervisor Dean Preston told Axios on Monday. "Why else would this be required of someone?"

What's next: Preston said he'll submit a formal inquiry to the mayor's office for more details, including whether all or only some Breed-appointed city commissioners were asked to sign such letters.

  • He also said he's planning to announce legislation today intended to "explicitly prohibit the practice" moving forward to "make sure that it doesn't happen again."

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