Former San Francisco arts chief defends his out-of-town work 

For two weeks in April, former Arts Commission Director Luis Cancel collected a paycheck for 71 hours working “online” in Rio de Janeiro, according to time sheets obtained by The San Francisco Examiner.

Those two weeks, plus another three days he spent in Rio in October to attend a conference, are part of the reason Cancel had been under pressure from Arts Commission members to resign.

In an email, Cancel said that during the time he was in Rio he logged into The City’s computer server every day, answered emails and conducted meetings via Skype. He also said he had notified the Arts Commission that he would be telecommuting from South America for two weeks in April. 

“Working remotely is far from a novel concept and one that is practiced widely nationally, moreover in our tech-oriented region, on a regular basis for more than a decade,” Cancel said in the email.

Cancel also took 129 hours of vacation between July 2009 and June 2010, which is more than three weeks in a year. He also took paid trips to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Denver. Cancel said all those trips were work-related.

The former director said he routinely worked more than 80 hours per pay period without earning a penny in overtime (department heads do not receive extra compensation for overtime).

Mayor Ed Lee said he continues to stay out of the minutiae of personnel matters, but he did acknowledge that the trips to Rio weren’t the only thing Cancel had come under fire for.

“I do know that there were perhaps things beyond just attendance that were under question,” Lee said.

Cancel’s last day was Friday. He told the mayor he was quitting the job — which pays $147,633, not including benefits — so he can move back to New York.

Now that the Arts Commission will be choosing a new director, Lee said he would be willing to provide guidance on the decision, but that it is ultimately up to the commission.

“I think arts is one of the most positive things we do in The City,” Lee said. “I want to make sure the Arts Commission finds somebody that not only they are satisfied with from a personnel level, but who excites us in terms of art.”

Racking up air miles

The following shows how Luis Cancel spent his time during the last year of his tenure:

Holiday time: 129 hours
Telecommuting from Rio: 95 hours
Washington, D.C.: 32 hours
Boston: 32 hours
Chicago: 32 hours
Denver: 24 hours
Los Angeles: 16 hours
Houston: 16 hours

Source: Time sheets signed by Cancel

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