San Francisco

Former Recology Official to Plead Guilty in SF Corruption Scandal

San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

A former top official with San Francisco’s garbage hauling contractor Recology has agreed to plead guilty in exchange for his testimony in the city’s ongoing public corruption scandal, according to court documents prosecutors filed in a related case.

Paul Giusti, 64, was charged last year with funneling more than $1 million to win the favor of former public works director Mohammed Nuru.

Although prosecutors said in a court filing in another defendant’s case that he has agreed to plead guilty, Giusti appeared in court this week and entered a not guilty plea to a single count of engaging in a criminal conspiracy involving bribery and honest services fraud.

His attorney, Hartley West, declined to comment on the status of the case.

Nuru, the lead figure in the widening scandal, still faces charges of fraud and lying to the FBI.

Prosecutors have said Nuru was the target of Giusti’s multi-year campaign to curry favor as Recology sought a garbage rate increase, eventually "approved by the city but paid by an unsuspecting public."

In an email cited in the federal Giusti criminal complaint, an unnamed Recology official referred to Nuru’s role as the head of the agency that approved rate hikes: "Needless to say, keeping him happy is important."

Prosecutors said one way Giusti tried to do that was hiring Nuru’s son at a nonprofit Giusti helped run and that was largely funded by Recology. Prosecutors said the younger Nuru was given jobs over the three year period Recology’s rate hike was under city review, ending in 2017.

Prosecutors say it was about that same time that Giusti arranged to funnel $1 million to Nuru through contributions into an off-the-books fund run by the nonprofit San Francisco Parks Alliance. Prosecutors said what they called a "slush fund" was tapped by Nuru and other Public Works officials to pay for parties and provide swag to DPW workers.

Giusti himself was fired in June of last year – an action that company officials said came after an independent probe found he had failed to live up to Recology’s ethical standards.

"We cannot comment on the Department of Justice’s actions," said company spokesman Robert Reed in a statement. "As a result of this matter, Recology has taken significant measures to improve our compliance policies, training, and procedures. We have also been working cooperatively with both the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice."

In agreeing to plead guilty, Giusti joins several other defendants to have admitted wrongdoing and agreeing to testify, among them restaurateur Nick Bovis, contractor Balmore Hernandez, permit expediter Walter Wong and former city official Sandra Zuniga.

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