The head of a nonprofit founded by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti that is raising money for those affected by the coronavirus crisis has stepped down, a Garcetti advisor said Wednesday.
Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles President Jeremy Bernard’s last day was Tuesday, said Garcetti advisor Yusef Robb.
Deidre Lind, the Mayor’s Fund’s founding president, has returned to serve as interim head, Robb said. Robb declined to comment further, saying Bernard’s departure is a personnel issue.
“We thank him for his service, especially over the last month as the Mayor’s Fund swung into action to play a critical role in our community’s response to the pandemic,” Robb said of Bernard.
Bernard was appointed president by the Mayor’s Fund’s board of directors in 2018. He previously worked as the White House Social Secretary under President Obama and was the first man and the first openly gay person to be appointed to the event-planning role. He also previously worked as a community activist and Obama campaign fundraiser.
He didn’t respond Wednesday to a request for comment.
Founded in 2014, the Mayor’s Fund raises money to support an array of programs, including those focused on youths, helping the homeless, the environment, and more.
The nonprofit’s staff work with city department heads to advance the mayor’s priorities. Donations and grants come from individuals and outside groups, and contributions aren’t limited by city campaign finance rules.
That dynamic has raised red flags among ethics watchdogs, who argue that donors might give to the Mayor’s Fund to curry favor with Garcetti.
In recent weeks, the fund has raised more than $30 million to help those affected by the coronavirus pandemic, including domestic violence survivors, seniors, medical workers and others. Garcetti routinely thanks Mayor’s Fund donors at his nightly media briefings, a group that has included singer Rihanna and Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey.
Robb said the Mayor’s Fund’s primary fundraisers are Garcetti, attorney and former Los Angeles police commissioner Matt Johnson and Garcetti adviser Rick Jacobs.
Garcetti announced last week that the fund would raise money to provide free, prepaid debit cards worth $700 to $1,500 to some of city’s poorest residents. More than 450,000 applications for the cards came into the city, Robb said.
The influx caused a city website to temporarily go down and phone callers to experience difficulties, sparking complaints on social media.
Robb said that the Mayor’s Fund raised more than $10 million for the debit card program. About 10,000 to 15,000 cards will be given out, Robb said.