The mayor of London will stop getting her appointees to sign secret, undated resignation letters after The Standard exposed the legally questionable practice on Friday and regulators threatened her with legislative action.
Faced with concerns that she was stripping her appointees of their independence, Breed announced Sunday that she would cancel any outstanding resignation letters and no longer ask her committee appointees to provide undated letters that she could use dismiss them.
A spokeswoman for the mayor said she would stop the practice after receiving guidance that the letters were unlikely to stand in court.
“These letters have never been quoted or used in any way over the past four years,” Breed spokesman Jeff Cretan said. “That being said, the mayor has consulted with the city attorney’s office and was told that while these undated letters are legal, if they are used, they are likely to be unenforceable in court.”
Breed stopped the practice Friday after releasing an email chain showing that the mayor’s office directed a police commissioner she appointed, Max Carter-Oberstone, to be re-elected this spring. An undated letter of resignation was signed shortly before the appointment to the powerful agency.
The Standard found a copy of the letter through a public records request for documents about an altercation between Breed and Carter-Oberstone, whom she publicly accused of being a “liar” earlier this month.
The finding prompted Superintendent Dean Preston to call on Saturday for legislation that would explicitly bar Breed from making undated letters signed by appointees as a condition of work, and to cancel any existing letters.
Supervisor Hillary Ronen also came out in support of the legislation.
Preston said the practice appeared to violate the city’s charter, which does not allow the mayor to remove a police officer she has appointed from the police board without the consent of the supervisory board.
“Such conduct is not allowed,” Preston previously said. “If this happens once, it’s very concerning. If it’s a pattern or a practice, it’s even more concerning.”
While the mayor’s office acknowledged that Carter-Oberstone wasn’t the only Breed appointee to sign such letters, it’s unclear how widespread the practice is. Preston said he would hold a hearing to find out.
Breed’s spokesman, Crete, declined to answer questions about how widespread the practice is and who else has signed a similar letter.
The letters were “reserved for the most serious cases of misconduct or omission,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
He believes they are necessary because commissioners can influence how the city is run, which can have a bad effect on the mayor.
“If the planning committee rejects a housing project, the mayor is held accountable,” Krittan said. “The mayor will be held accountable if the police council refuses to support the police department’s efforts to combat street violence and the open-air drug trade.”
This is a developing story. Check for updates.