San Francisco

Top SF Public Works Official Retires Amid $100 Million Overcharging Scandal

Getty Images

Julia Dawson, the chief financial officer at the San Francisco Department of Public Works, retired Friday amid the still ongoing investigation into what city officials knew about $100 million in overcharges by the Recology garbage hauling firm.

“It was her decision to retire,” said Public Works spokeswoman Rachel Gordon of Dawson’s departure. “Her last day at Public Works was today.”

Dawson spent 24 years working for the city, seven and a half years of them at Public Works, as well as earlier stints at the airport, fire department, municipal transportation agency and the department of parking and traffic.

In March, City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced a $100 million settlement with Recology over customer overbilling. The company says was due to an error in how it accounted for its revenues.

Two former top officials of that firm, however, are now charged criminally in an ongoing federal public corruption case. The allegations are that both former Recology officials were involved in bribing now ousted San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru.

But records show it was one of those two officials, John Porter, who admitted to the overcharging at a meeting with city officials in December 2018.

Documents show that meeting came after Dawson herself raised questions just weeks earlier about how the company was factoring its revenues versus its expenses – a ratio that is key in determining rate hikes.

Had the company properly accounted for its revenues, Herrera has said, it would only have been entitled to half the rate hike it sought back in 2017.

“It was something that was known – DPW did nothing about it,” Herrera said in March. “Recology knew about it at the time and did nothing about it.”

After Porter acknowledged at the meeting in December 2018 that the company had indeed been undercounting revenue, Dawson enlisted an outside consultant to study the issue in 2019, records show. However, record shows Dawson failed to alert the public -even after that outside consultant confirmed the overbilling in early 2020.

Gordon said while the city’s probes continue, “we see no criminal wrongdoing in the investigations so far involving Julia Dawson.”

Contact Us