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San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has reassigned Deputy City Attorney Kamala Harris to a new job in an effort to avoid a conflict of interest as she prepares for a possible campaign for district attorney. The Harris move is one of several staff shuffles that Herrera has made in recent weeks. After a year in office, Herrera has begun rotating his deputies and has told his staff of 200 lawyers that the office for the first time will begin performance evaluations, starting in July. Reassigning Harris, however, is designed to remove the office from a potentially sticky political problem. Harris had been co-chief of the office’s children and families team. Some of the cases she handled could have involved criminal components — such as child abuse — that overlap with the DA’s office, said Herrera’s chief of staff, Deputy City Attorney Jesse Smith. That, in turn, might have posed a conflict, he said. In a Jan. 15 office memorandum, Herrera said he would transfer Harris to the trial team, effective Feb. 1. “This move is necessary to prevent any appearance of a conflict of interest with the district attorney’s office,” Herrera’s memo said. Harris is a former Alameda County and San Francisco prosecutor who has filed papers with the S.F. Elections Commission to create an exploratory committee for a potential campaign to challenge incumbent DA Terence Hallinan. It gives her the authority to raise money through contributions. She has until Aug. 8 to take out her nomination papers to become an official candidate for the job. Harris did not return messages left at her office and on her cell phone. Transferring Harris, however, is just one part of a substantial restructuring of the office. Herrera has moved several other deputies into new teams and combined the functions of several others. “I wanted to assign people to different teams in order to utilize different people’s strengths and also to create a more efficient structure,” he said. He has transferred Deputy City Attorney Robert Maerz from the contracts team to the San Francisco International Airport team. Deputy City Attorney Robert Bryan takes over as head of contracts. Deputy City Attorney Mara Rosales, who has been the airport’s chief attorney, replaces Bryan at the public transportation team that handles Muni matters. Herrera also combined the land use and environment teams into one unit headed by Deputy City Attorney Judith Boyajian. He combined energy and telecommunications for a team led by Deputy City Attorney Theresa Mueller. Deputy City Attorney Linda Ross will lead the combined labor and retirement team, with an assist on the pension side from Deputy City Attorney Daniel Maguire. “I consider the obligation of running one of the nation’s best, most progressive public law offices to be a willingness to not merely adapt to change, but to lead it,” Herrera said in his memo. He said he based his rotations and new assignments on the “observations of clients,” which would be city agencies, as well as comments from people within the office. Herrera said he learned to his surprise after he was sworn in last year that the city attorney’s office has never conducted performance evaluations, which are customary in private law firms. “The evaluations will enable us to not only objectively assess a deputy’s work performance, but will also assist in identifying future career moves that meet both the deputy’s individual abilities and interests, and needs of the office,” the memo said. Herrera’s office manager, Deputy City Attorney Marisa Moret, said the rotations and new assignments will improve communications and “keep everyone in the loop.”

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