A kitchen with a table and chairs.
SF SAFE office

Furlishous Wyatt remembers how he felt last month when he heard about the implosion of the scandal-ridden nonprofit SF SAFE, where he had worked for 42 years. 

“There was initial shock and numbness, which hasn’t totally subsided,” said Wyatt, who joined SF SAFE in 1982. “I feel betrayed.”

That betrayal has given rise to anger: On Thursday at 11 a.m., at least half a dozen former SF SAFE workers will go to City Hall for an appointment with the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement to file a complaint about unpaid wages and benefits.

“Nobody is paying attention to the damage it’s done to us,” said Gina Guitron, 44, SF SAFE’s administrative manager who has not had a regular paycheck for six months. “We need to try to get paid and make some noise.”

But there were red flags of an implosion, multiple employees said, long before the organization closed down.

Wyatt and others said they were put under Orwellian scrutiny at work, and failed to receive their promised medical insurance. And, in the last six months, their paychecks were substituted with either cashier’s checks or sent via Venmo. Often, the payments had no pay stubs or any accounting of taxes deducted. 

SF SAFE, a San Francisco Police Department-affiliated anti-crime nonprofit created in 1976, fired its executive director, Kyra Worthy, on the morning of Jan. 24, and closed up shop the same day. The entire staff of two dozen lost their jobs, with some filing for unemployment immediately and others looking for new work.

A January controller’s audit revealed the nonprofit misspent $79,655 in grant funds for unauthorized expenses, including a nearly $15,000 staff trip to Lake Tahoe, limo rides and luxury gifts. 

Then the dominoes fell: Billionaire Chris Larsen called for an investigation into how the organization spent $1 million out of the $1.8 million that he gave to it. The Latino Task Force said the nonprofit owed it $625,000. SF SAFE’s landlord demanded $445,306 in back rent. And even a local florist said the nonprofit and its executive director stiffed them $18,000.

On Feb. 2, DA Brooke Jenkins announced a criminal investigation of Worthy’s alleged financial mismanagement. Nearly three weeks later, the police department canceled the nonprofit’s $5.4 million contract.

The job meant a lot to Wyatt, a 72-year-old who had worked most of his life for SF SAFE as a security services manager. It also meant a lot to the community he served; working into retirement age, he said, was a matter of “job loyalty.” 

Hostile work environment

Lonnie Manuma, 43, started working for SF SAFE last March as a supervisor for community ambassadors who walked the Mission as alternatives to law enforcement. Her daily tasks included checking on homeless people, reversing overdoses and generally acting as a non-police presence for public safety. 

She wasn’t prepared for the trauma that would entail. In her second week of work, she found someone dead next to the McDonald’s at 24th and Mission streets. She called 911 immediately and stayed until the police arrived. 

“For two weeks, every night, I woke up with nightmares about the body,” she said. Yet Manuma recalled receiving only brief texts about the incident from her boss, Worthy, who never asked about her well-being or offered resources for professional help. She again failed to get any support after a man pointed a gun at her at Mission and 22nd streets.

people congregating in front of a McDonalds store
McDonalds at 24th and Mission streets. Photo by Lingzi Chen.

For a job that required situational and security awareness, Manuma said the training she received from SF SAFE was disappointing. In the case of a homeless person’s dog attacking, she was advised to take off her sweater and wrap it around her arm. “How are you supposed to do that? You know, within a split second?” she asked.

Manuma instead relied on the knowledge she’d acquired from better training while working at St. Anthony’s, a soup kitchen in the Tenderloin. At least there, she said, she got training on how to stay safe while doing community service on the streets.

Instead of training at SF SAFE, Manuma found obtrusive personal scrutiny. When she returned from walking the neighborhood to use the restroom at SF SAFE’s headquarters on 22nd Street, Manuma said, her unique key fob alerted Worthy — who would then deduct that bathroom break from Manuma’s break time.

Omar Flores, 26, who worked for SF SAFE as a street ambassador, said that he was told to continue walking the streets, even when there was a storm. “We can’t even be inside for five minutes,” Flores said. “She would tell us to just put on a rain jacket.” 

According to Manuma, while Worthy monitored her employees’ work time down to the minute, her own schedule was much looser. 

Guitron said that Worthy would come into the office between 11 a.m. and noon, sometimes later, and say her day was packed with meetings. She would ask Guitron or others to get her lunch, usually tacos or burritos, and then close her office door and stay there until 4 or 5 p.m. 

“She said she works 24/7,” Guitron said with a sneer. “She said she doesn’t sleep.” Staff would rarely see Worthy unless she yelled their names and beckoned them into her office, or if they knocked on her door, Guitron said. 

“She would always pit each staff [members] against each other,” Wyatt remembered, “always saying somebody is not doing their job.” He guessed it was a way for Worthy to take attention away from her own inactivity. 

According to SF SAFE’s 2022 tax information, Worthy’s salary was just shy of $158,000. In her first full year on the job, 2019, she was paid $110,000.

Mission Local’s calls to Worthy went straight to voicemail. 

Paychecks and medical insurance

Workers say that their paycheck problems began as far back as August 2023. That’s when Worthy stopped using the nonprofit’s old payroll system, which Wyatt said had worked since the late 1990s and “never had problems.” 

Staff started being paid through cashier’s checks from San Francisco Safe Inc. and the Police Credit Union. Some workers were paid through Venmo, including at least two payments made to Guitron and to Starr Miles, the public-safety and community-engagement coordinator. Those payments totaled $3,000 each and, workers said, came from Dylan Hackett, an attorney for the nonprofit. 

In January, right before the collapse of the organization, Worthy told employees to set up an account on ADP, a third-party payroll and HR software system, and promised that their pay stubs would start showing up through the system. But, workers said, the pay stubs never did. 

Former SF SAFE workers say they still have not received payment for the period from Jan. 5 to the nonprofit’s last day on Jan. 24. One employee, who asked to remain anonymous so his name would not be associated with Worthy, said he is still owed compensation for about 150 hours of paid time off and 100 hours of sick leave accumulated over seven years. 

Those who worked there longer, like Wyatt, said the monthly employee contribution to their 403(b) account with Vanguard ceased in August, and they received letters from the small business health insurance company CaliforniaChoice and Kaiser in January noting that their health insurance had ended. As the April tax day approaches, none of the workers Mission Local spoke to had received their W-2s. 

Employees who were hired after March 2023 said they never had health insurance at all, even though Worthy told some to expect health insurance on day one, while others were told they would receive it after a 30-day waiting period. When they asked about their insurance, they were told Worthy was “working on it.” 

The lack of insurance has cost the employees. Manuma said she now carries $8,000 in medical debt for multiple hospital visits. Guitron, who went to the emergency room twice, said she still owes Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital about $2,300. 

“At least half of us have been affected financially and emotionally. I was like, ‘What the hell just happened?’” Guitron said. “It was the first time I ever had to apply for MediCal and food stamps.”

‘We got blindsided’

Wyatt said that, since the news of SF SAFE’s collapse, he has asked himself again and again: “How could she?” 

“You know you are gonna get caught. Why would you still do that?”

A room with a couch and a chair.
SF SAFE office.

Guitron, who is raising three children with her husband, said her family has now lost half its income. “It was fifty-fifty,” she said. “So now, my fifty is down to nothing.” 

Miles, 57, who was hired in April 2022, said she knew Worthy from when they both worked at the YMCA 20 years ago.

“This Kyra was a whole ‘nother person,” Guitron said. “I guess I would have never, ever, ever accepted to work at SF SAFE if I knew that shit was going on.” 

“I think the first two weeks, we were just getting so much information,” Guitron recalled of the days after SF SAFE shuttered. “It was overwhelming. It was just stressful. It was just out of nowhere. You know, we got blindsided.”

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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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1 Comment

  1. Kyra is anything but ‘Worthy’. She’s been scamming and conning since long before SF Safe.

    She needs some serious prison time.

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