Public Corruption Scandal

Former DPW Manager Identified in SF Corruption Scandal

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The unnamed contractor who prosecutors say provided a free tractor and unpaid labor to an accused figure in San Francisco’s corruption scandal is a former city DPW official turned CEO of a local contracting firm, NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit has learned.

“All roads point to a particular city contractor,” said City Supervisor Aaron Peskin in an interview about the officially unnamed alleged bribery scheme participant.  He’s described only as “Contractor One” in charging documents filed against Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru last week.

Peksin says the city’s probe continues, but a source with knowledge of the matter identified the contractor allegedly involved as Balmore Hernandez, 55.

According to his LinkedIn page, Hernandez worked for 24 years with the city’s Department of Public Works before leaving to the private sector, ultimately becoming CEO OF Azul Works Inc. in San Francisco.

According to charging documents, “Contractor One” arranged to deliver Nuru a John Deere Tractor as well as free labor to fix up Nuru’s Colusa County vacation home.  Prosecutors said it was in exchange for Nuru’s” behind the scenes” support with city projects, including a sidewalk paving job on Van Ness Avenue in 2018.

Court documents detail how investigators allegedly recorded Nuru thanking Contractor One, saying in a conversation early last year:  "Yeah, yeah, very nice. It's a nice tractor. Very nice, you know, it's a modern tractor for sure."

Hernandez did not return calls seeking comment.

Azul Works referred questions about the matter to an attorney, who declined comment Monday. 

Prosecutors say in the complaint that Contractor One had “numerous contracts” with the city, including more than $2 million dollars of sidewalk construction work in 2018.

While immediately available city records are not specific, they do reflect at that time, Azul Works had DPW contracts worth at least that amount.

Records also reflect that Nuru was Hernandez’s boss for several years before Hernandez left a senior post at the DPW’s Bureau of Construction Management in 2009.

Azul Works also has contracts with San Francisco International Airport, where Nuru allegedly helped another businessman try to bribe an airport commissioner to win a contract in 2018. That commissioner, Linda Crayton, has since resigned.

Supervisor Peskin says the city needs to be aggressive in finding out everyone involved, and he urged prosecutors to act against Contractor One.

“If all of this is proven, then that contractor should be charged,” Peskin said in a recent interview.  “I also think it implicates a much larger pay to play culture that used to exist in San Francisco. We thought it had gone away, but apparently it hasn’t.”

During a news conference last week, federal prosecutors advised any of the unnamed participants mentioned in the charging documents to contact them and cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

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