The picture below only begins to illustrate how slick and shrouded in mystery the City Attorney’s Investigations Team actually is. Members of the team engage in investigative work to identify and interview witnesses, detect sources of civil violations, and uncover criminal activity in matters involving the City and County of San Francisco. And yes, they sometimes work in disguise.
As established by the San Francisco Charter, the City Attorney is given the duty of establishing a Bureau of Investigation and Claims Administration to investigate any matters that pose the potential for liability against the City and County or its officers and agents. At the discretion of the City Attorney, the Investigations Team performs all investigative tasks required by deputies in the office and the City Attorney himself. Additionally, the investigations team may assist other local, state and federal governmental investigative agencies in conjunction with City business.
The work of the investigations team is divided into four general areas: trial preparation, city employee investigations, code enforcement investigation, and special investigations. A vast majority of this team’s time is spent helping prepare Deputy City Attorneys for depositions, hearings and trials. This work may entail scene reconstruction, witness location and interview, document retrieval and certification, analysis of witness statements, discussions of strategy and witness credibility with the assigned deputy and extensive report writing.
City employee investigations are another large part of this team’s work. Managers and Department Heads or the City Attorney Labor team may request an investigation into allegations of wrong doing by a city employee. Investigators may engage in a myriad of operations in order to determine the source of criminal activity.
The team also assists in code enforcement cases and other special investigations. Investigations may be brought against owners of property who do not comply with San Francisco codes. In doing their investigations, the team is often able to uncover egregious violations of health, safety, criminal and building codes, oftentimes resulting in cases that secure settlements and judgments totaling into the millions of dollars. Other special investigations that the team is involved in can include highly sensitive matters involving public officials who have violated City rules or other instances that potentially threaten the City with grave liability. In the past there have been special investigations into the disappearance or deaths of individuals in the custody of law enforcement, suspicious voting irregularities, conflicts of interest and collusion between City and private parties in contract irregularities. You know—all that exciting spy stuff.