Behind the CBI chief's "resignation"

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Matier and Ross reported today that Vivian Day, the director of the Building Inspection Commission, was stepping down and taking another city job (at the same pay). But there's a lot more to the story.

A leader in the Residential Builders Association who serves as the chair of the Building Inspection Commission was behind the move oust Day -- and he did it without informing other members of his panel.

Angus McCarthy, the residential builder representative on the commission, hauled Day into a meeting that involved a senior representative of the city’s personnel department to discuss his desire for her to resign, emails obtained by the Bay Guardian show.

Micki Callahan, the city’s Human Resources Director, met with Day and McCarthy May 22, the emails show, and Day was offered an alternative job with the city at equal pay if she would step down.

 “I was asked to ‘resign’ by June 30, 2012 by Angus who stated he was speaking on behalf of the Commission who wanted a change in leadership,” Day wrote in a  May 23 email to McCathy and Callahan. “I understand that I serve at the will of the Commission, but I was surprised by the fact that people were being interviewed for my position without some notice to me as a courtesy.”

She noted that she didn’t want to resign and needed to hear that the entire commission was backing up McCarthy.

The problem: At least two other commissioners I spoke to told me they had no idea the commission chair was calling on the director to resign, and one of them, Debra Walker, said she wasn’t looking for a change.

“They’re trying to get rid of Vivian because she isn’t corrupt,” Walker told me.

In a May 23 email, Callahan wrote that “we wanted to you explore with you your interest in pursuing a voluntary resignation in a way that was respectful of your contributions to the city.”

But Day was having none of it, and complained by email that she was being harassed by the builders. The previous commission chair, Mel Murphy, also tried to drive her out.

“I spent a year being harassed in front of the Commission because I would not bend Civil Service rules to accommodate [Murphy’s] wishes regarding staff,” Day noted.

By law, the BIC must include a residential builder, a residential landlord, a licensed structural engineeer, an architect, a tenant, a nonprofit housing provider and a member of the general public.

I contacted Day, who told me that she couldn’t comment. McCarthy told me by email that “this is a personnel matter between the Director and Human Resouces, [so] I have been advised by the City Attorney's office to avoid commenting on the matter.”

Myrna Melgar, who holds the public seat, told me that McCarthy had never spoken to her about Day and that the commission had held no meetings to discuss her job or tenure. Melgar told me that she’s not sure Day is strong enough on tenant issues, but never told McCarthy that she wanted a new director.

There doesn’t seem to be widespread concern among tenants about Day’s performance. Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who works at the Housing Rights Committee, told me he and his colleagues have no issues with her.

Walker confirmed there had been no discussions about Day resigning among the commissioners. Any move to oust the director would require a closed-sesion meeting on the topic, and none has been scheduled, Walker said.

But according to a May 24 email from Day to Callahan, “Angus did state that the ‘commission wanted a change in leadership.’”
She added: “The Commission has not been convened to discuss this issue and I do not want to voluntarily resign. ... If the Commission wants a change, thyen the Commission should be respectful to me and not back door and try to force a voluntary resignation from me.”

All of which leaves two obvious possibilities: McCarthy went ahead and tried to push Day out, claiming that he had the rest of the commission behind him -- or else McCarthy spoke privately with several other commission members to line them up, in which case he violated the Brown Act, which mandates that such discussions be held only at a scheduled meeting with a quorum present.

The residential builders’ anger with Day is a bit puzzling. She hasn’t been exactly a rabid anti-development type. The Chron says the mayor thought she was “an obstructionist blocking the mayor's efforts to build more housing and boost neighborhood economic development,” but it’s hard to see any evidence of that.

I asked Randy Shaw, director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, a big fan of McCarthy and an ally of the mayor, if he had seen any problems with Day. “I’ve never met her,” he emailed tersely.

One person close to DBI had a different take on the situation. “The RBA has been running the department for years,” this person, who asked not to be named, told me. “Vivian wasn’t one of them. So they figured they might as well just put their own person in charge.”

Comments

When you're a City official and you don't play by the rules (the law), and top City officials don't enforce the law, and purposely look the other way, that's corruption in my book.

Reminds me of Rec & Park's Phil Ginsberg blatantly violating the GG Park Master Plan that says explicitly that lights are to be used for safety , NOT to turn night into day (pg 9-5 of the GGPMP says that), which is exactly what those 60 foot lights he wants to put in Beach Chalet until 10:30 pm every night will do.

Question is will the supes call him on it when they have to decide whether to approve or reject the approval of the EIR by the Planning Commission. Either Ginsberg is going to play by the rules and meet the requirements of the GGPMP or be similar to Angus McCarthy and play by his own rules.

When City officials (the mayor, the supes, the officials of the pertinent City agency) turn their head away when corruption is being committed, that's a sign of a corrupt City government.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 20, 2012 @ 9:03 pm

Regardless of the facts of the matter, how can the city justify paying her or anyone else $225,000 a year to do that job? City Hall needs to get a grip on the inflated public employee salary problem.

Posted by Rob Anderson on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 9:31 am

Especially when you consider the value of all those ridiculous pension and health benefits. It's an outrage.

I'm happy to pay public safety workers because they save lives and property, but there is little else the city does that I want or need. We should be firing a lot more of them.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 10:02 am

In reality the City Hall gravy train rolls on. The MTA is looking for someone to lie for them at $167,000 a year plus benefits. Since bullshitters are thick on the ground here in Progressive Land, they shouldn't have any trouble filling that slot.
http://sfcitizen.com/blog/2012/06/21/how-would-you-like-to-make-14k-per-...

Posted by Rob Anderson on Jun. 21, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

Hey Tim,

Just a minor correction to your story: I did speak to Angus about Vivan Day, and I shared with him the same assessment I shared with you. This was during a conversation about code enforcement in the Department. It is not a Brown act violation for Commissioners to speak one-on one about items that are not on the agenda - which this was definitely not at the time. The rest is correct: No meetings; and Angus never shared with me that he would be meeting with Vivian.

Posted by Myrna on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 9:37 pm