A group of former SF SAFE workers walking down a hallway at city hall heading to a meeting with the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement
A group of former SF SAFE workers heading to a meeting with the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement at City Hall. Photo by Xueer Lu. Feb. 29, 2024.

Some 15 former employees of SF SAFE, the police-affiliated nonprofit that imploded last month due to financial mismanagement, gathered at City Hall today to file an official complaint and attempt to claw back unpaid wages and benefits.  

They left disheartened.

“They just want us to fill up the paperwork and then turn it in. And then they will do the investigation,” said Lonnie Manuma, one of the former workers, who stepped out of a one-hour long meeting at the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement around noon. Manuma, 43, who started at SF SAFE as a supervisor for community ambassadors about a year ago, said she felt “disappointed.” 

“I took off work to come here, you know, thinking that it was going to be a solution,” Manuma added. “But obviously not.” 

“We have an active investigation for potential violations. The meeting today was just an outreach to workers who have not filed any paperwork,” said Patrick Mulligan, director of the local labor office. “We take any complaint regarding labor violations seriously in this office and we are actively investigating it.”

Three former workers at SF SAFE standing in a hallway at City Hall.
Omar Flores (left), Joshua Miles (middle), and Gina Guitron (right), three former SF SAFE workers, standing in the hallway at City Hall after their meeting with the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement. Photo by Xueer Lu. Feb. 29, 2024.

This week, eight former employees of SF SAFE told Mission Local that they had been short-changed on wages and healthcare by Kyra Worthy, the since-ousted executive director of the nonprofit, who is facing a criminal investigation from the District Attorney’s Office. The workers said that Worthy scrutinized them at work while maintaining an easygoing schedule for herself, and that they received payments in an irregular fashion — sometimes via cashiers check or Venmo.

Worthy was ousted by the nonprofit’s board on Jan. 24. That followed a controller’s audit accusing SF SAFE of misspending $79,655 in grant funds on items such as a nearly $15,000 staff trip to Lake Tahoe, limo rides and luxury gift boxes. 

Accusations against the Mission-based nonprofit followed in short order: $625,000 in unpaid bills to a local Mission nonprofit, $445,000 in back rent to their landlord and some $17,000 unpaid to a local florist

Starr Miles, 57, the nonprofit’s former public safety and community engagement coordinator — along with  two other former SF SAFE employees who declined to disclose their names — remembers the trip well: It was a one-week work trip to South Lake Tahoe in September 2022 for some nine staff members to attend the 45th annual training symposium organized by the California Crime Prevention Officers’ Association. 

One of the employees, who said she went on the trip, recalled that the team was supposed to stay at a five-star hotel, where the conference was sited, and had to relocate at the last minute to a three-star hotel down the street because of a ceiling leak at the first hotel. 

“We haven’t even seen no invoice that she submitted. We haven’t seen no receipts. So I don’t know. That’s a lot! Like, what did we do?” Miles recalled. “I know that we stayed in a hotel. Each of us had a room. But I don’t know how much they’re going to cost. It’s not like we were eating fancy out there.” 

Other staffers also remember the luxury gift boxes cited in the controller’s audit, particularly those purchased for every Lunar New Year and for the Community Police Advisory Board Symposiums.

“She bragged about all of those things,” said Joshua Miles, 22, who worked at SF SAFE for eight months as a community connector to check in on small businesses. “She just basically took pride in spending so much money and giving out gifts.” Miles remembers one time there were leftover teacup sets from the lunar new year events in the office that they “ended up throwing in the garbage.”

Also Thursday, workers heard from their former boss directly for the first time in almost a month since the organization closed down. Worthy has been dodging reporters’ phone calls, but she was cc’d on an email from the labor office about the workers’ allegations. 

Gina Guitron, a former SF SAFE supervisor, replied by asking why Worthy was even included in the email and wrote that Worthy was “the reason the staff are without a job and have not been paid.” Guitron claimed that “allegedly Kyra depleted all accounts leaving SF SAFE in the negative.”

“Gina – Be careful what you believe, repeat and say. Especially when you don’t know the facts,” Worthy wrote back. “Maybe doing research of your own will be helpful.”

While the workers are unsure what will come of the labor investigation, one thing is certain: Getting paid is going to be a long process. 

“It’s mixed emotions,” Starr Miles said. “I know that we’re going somewhere with this. But just the timing because while they’re doing their investigation and trying to get us paid, bills are still piling up.”

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Xueer is a data reporter for Mission Local through the California Local News Fellowship. Xueer is a bilingual multimedia journalist fluent in Chinese and English and is passionate about data, graphics, and innovative ways of storytelling. Xueer graduated from UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism with a Master's Degree in May 2023. She also loves cooking, photography, and scuba diving.

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