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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ranger Noir: S.F. Park Patrol Run as Money Machine

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 at 12:40 PM

click to enlarge rangernoir.jpg

This week's SF Weekly cover story "Ranger Noir" takes a close look at the law enforcement unit that covers San Francisco park facilities, and discovers an agency seemingly gone bad.

Among its findings: 

A full-time Park Patrol supervisor holds a second, separate full-time job with the state of California. Park staffers say he often doesn't show up to work. But Department of Recreation and Park operations manager Denny Kern says he approved this arrangement. "The explanation is, there is no conflict," his spokeswoman told us.

Another Park Patrol allegedly skips his rounds and sleeps during his graveyard shift, then shows up for work the next day to log overtime hours, thus doubling his $53,000 salary. He's considered one of the chief park ranger's favored employees.

The man in charge of the unit, meanwhile, reportedly manipulates overtime assignments and then divvies them up among buddies, saving some plum ones for himself.

Last year, chief Park Patrol Officer Marcus Santiago collected more than

$85,000 in overtime pay on top of his $67,000 annual salary, averaging

more than 70 hours of work per week, 52 weeks annually.

Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of this story is that some of the apparent wrongdoing has been going on under the noses of high-ranking government officials.

According to the story:

Santiago has been the target of whistleblower and other complaints.

To cover his tracks during one city inquiry, Santiago allegedly told underlings to backdate overtime paperwork, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

Another time, Santiago reportedly responded to a request for cellphone records -- which might have shown a city investigator whether or not he was lying about overtime -- by claiming that he'd dropped his phone in water.

Despite investigating some of these complaints, his boss, Recreation and Parks Operations Manager Dennis Kern has protected Santiago, SF Weekly has found.

Late this summer, following an extensive investigation, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission authorized an internal report documenting the overtime allegations. The report showed evidence of discrimination against employees not in his inner circle and retaliation against complainants. It also affirmed that Santiago misled city officials on his San Francisco employment application in order to cover up that he was fired from the Oakland Police Department on allegations of misappropriating evidence and abusing people in custody.

The Park Patrol has been run for years as Marcus Santiago's personal fiefdom. Now that this is out in the open, I'm curious to see if Mayor Ed Lee will ask his parks General Manager Phil Ginsburg to get rid of this apparent liability.

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Matt Smith


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