A former San Francisco doctor who claimed he lost his job at Laguna Honda Hospital for filing whistle-blower complaints is close to receiving a $750,000 settlement from The City.
Dr. Derek Kerr worked as a physician for The City for more than two decades before he filed whistle-blower complaints in September 2009 and March 2010 alleging mismanagement of the hospital’s patient gift fund and a conflict of interest with former Public Health Department Director Dr. Mitch Katz.
Three days after filing the March complaint — the day after it reached the District Attorney’s Office — he was laid off.
Officials at the health department say Kerr was let go to save cash during a budget crunch. Kerr countered with a lawsuit in November 2010 alleging he was let go by his supervisor, Mivic Hirose, as retaliation for speaking out.
Following complaints from Kerr and co-worker Dr. Maria Rivero, who also lost her job, it was revealed that $176,481 from the hospital’s patient gift fund had been transferred to a capital project fund, and another $375,000 in donations was used to hire staff for a nonprofit with connections to the hospital.
Kerr’s suit was moved from Superior Court to federal court, and in September his attorneys hashed out a $750,000 settlement deal with The City. It received initial approval from the Board of Supervisors last week.
Kerr’s attorney, Deborah Kochan, declined to comment until the case has been fully adjudicated. The city attorney does not comment on pending legal settlements.
Laguna Honda is The City’s long-term care facility, where low-income people with dementia or terminal illness live out their final days.
San Francisco’s whistle-blower program is supposed to encourage city employees who witness corruption, unsafe working conditions or other problems to come forward; it also allows them to do so anonymously.