rolling headsIn one of the more Byzantine maneuvers in local politics recently, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom has requested that all city department heads and commission appointees submit their resignations so he can decide whom to reappoint after the January election (in which he appears to face no serious challenger). According to the Bay Guardian — which asserts that Newsom’s request was a spur-of-the-moment decision (the Chronicle says that Newsom was discussing the plan nearly a year ago) — “a review of more than 200 letters received by the mayor office shows many city officials nearly begging keep their jobs, others terse, others choosing careful language to protect their rights and jobs, others defiant, others groveling with praise for Newsom.”

Some letters were certainly written more effectively than others. In the Chronicle Cecilia M. Vega notes that “Ron Miguel, a member of the Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority, mentioned in his letter that he has spoken with various members of Newsom’s staff to offer his services, including Alex Tourk — who resigned in January as the mayor’s campaign manager after Newsom admitted to having an affair with Tourk’s wife.

Chris Daly has written to the city attorney, saying he is “interested in the legal definition of ‘acceptance’ and any provisions that allow the Mayor to ‘accept’ or not ‘accept’ resignations and/or resignation offers. If these provisions exist, how would this acceptance or non-acceptance be exercised?”

The move is not unprecedented — Art Agnos did something similar — but it has rarely or ever been exercized so extensively. What’s it all about?

  • BeyondChron, speculates that the mayor is trying to raise campaign funds, by encouraging nervous managers to contribute money to his campaign.
  • Randy Shaw, also at BeyondChron, hopes that a housecleaning will revitalize the Housing Authority.
    UPDATE: Gregg Fortner, the executive director of the Housing Authority, refuses to resign. (And Nathaniel Ford, the head of Muni, wrote that his resignation was “not voluntary and if accepted by you will be interpreted as a Termination for Convenience pursuant to … my Employment Agreement.”)
  • Cecilia M. Vega (cited above) reports that “city insiders speculate that Newsom has a short list of names he specifically wants to see resign. High on the list, city sources say, is Police Chief Heather Fong, a Newsom appointee who heads the Police Department amid rising homicide rates and whose low-key leadership style has been criticized. City sources also said commissioners who have publicly strayed from the administration’s message can also expect to have their resignations accepted. In May, police commissioner Joe Alioto Veronese, a Newsom appointee, went against Newsom’s wishes and cast the swing vote to install a new Police Commission president.”
  • But San Francisco PartyParty says that “Gavin ain’t firing no minorities, even if they are important scapegoats,” so he “isn’t going to fire Chief Fong … instead he is going to ‘not not accept her resignation.’”
  • Meanwhile, KGO notes that the move is not exactly businesslike. “Shareholders would not like to hear that an entire cross section of the management of a company is replaced — that creates chaos, it creates uncertainty,” said Professor Eugene Muscat, University of San Francisco.

Amid all the speculation, Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, noting that “It would be more efficient to fire the folks who are not performing to the standards of the administration rather than putting everybody though this painful exercise,” may have made the most sense.

Image from Realonomics