Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Derek Kerr, Laguna Honda Physician, Fired After Whistleblowing, Pressures City for Documents

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 9:00 AM


Most people who have been paying any attention to San Francisco's questionable ethics policies probably weren't surprised when the Grand Jury issued a scathing report calling San Francisco's Whistleblower Program a colossal failure.

We know Derek Kerr wasn't.

The report only strengthened the former Laguna Honda doctor's case. He claims he was wrongfully terminated after he blew the whistle on his bosses when he suspected they were dipping into the Laguna Honda Patient Gift Fund to buy themselves lavish meals, among other things.

But while in deposition, the city's health officials have not been able to get their stories straight. While some have told attorneys Kerr was terminated for refusing to take on new responsibilities, others claimed it was solely tied to budget constraints, according to Kerr's attorneys.

A Controller's audit later revealed exactly what Kerr had already said: that Laguna officials were stiffing patients and taking from the Gift Fund. While the city ordered hospital management to repay $350,000, it did nothing to protect Kerr, according to the lawsuit.

"Every single report that has come out since Derek's termination has supported what he has said about mismanagement and manipulation of the gift fund," Mathew Stephenson, Kerr's attorney, told SF Weekly. "It's also supported the complete failure of the Whistleblower Program."

The reports along with Kerr's lawsuit were making the city squirm. After taking depositions of higher-ups in the Department of Public Health, including former director Mitch Katz, the city requested that the two parties hurry up and go into mediation in September. Meanwhile, Kerr's attorneys on July 11 filed a separate motion, asking a judge to force the city to hand over documents related to the complaints Kerr had filed in 2009.

The city has refused to give up those records, insisting that those complaints are sealed and confidential. Lawyers are also asking that a judge force representatives from the Ethics Commission and the Whistleblower Program to participate in the deposition.

"What did the Whistleblower Program do in response to the complaints? What policies did they follow?" Stephenson asks. "That's why we want to take the deposition of both those representatives from the city organizations -- to find out anything relevant to the complaint."

But with this pending lawsuit and now a negative report on the Whistleblower Program, it doesn't make the city look good. Which then raises the question: How soon will we see changes to the city's policies in protecting whiestleblowers?

SF Weekly contacted Controller Ben Rosenfield, who heads the department overseeing the Whistleblower Program. He said he was unavailable to talk. However, he did reissue his previous statement, which came out after the Grand Jury Report:

"I believe the overall report leaves a false impression that the program is not meeting its goal of investigating and resolving confidential claims of fraud, waste, and abuse of public resources because it suffers from an incomplete review on other key points."

Follow us on Twitter at @SFWeekly and @TheSnitchSF

  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , , ,

About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"