San Francisco

New SF Public Works Director Bans All Gifts

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The new head of San Francisco’s scandal-marred Public Works Department told city supervisors Wednesday that he has imposed new rules on bidding and grant applications and has banned all of the department’s 1,600 employees from accepting so much as a free cup of coffee as thanks for cleanup work.

Alaric Degrafinried, who replaced ousted DPW head Mohammed Nuru last month, says that he ordered new ethics training – including the ban on accepting any gifts – last week.

"Which in some ways could be erring on the little bit too far, but again I think it’s the right thing to do, in the climate of things right now," he said after briefing a committee of the Board of Supervisors, the first in what is expected to be a series of hearings on corruption.

Nuru stands accused in federal court of helping to arrange a bribe of a San Francisco Airport Commissioner. Federal charging documents allege that Nuru accepted a John Deere tractor, low cost labor on his Colusa County vacation home and even a free trip to China, allegedly in exchange for his behind the scenes help on projects being built in the city.

Degrafinried said one of the first things he did was impose new controls on bidding and grant processes.

Going forward, he said, he will put a stop to single-bid contracts in all but dire emergencies. The goal, he said, is to have at least three bids in every contract. He said he is also required more oversight in how the department awards grants to non-profit agencies for neighborhood cleanup.

On Friday, he ordered that the entire workforce at the department receive training on new policies surrounding gifts. He says that ban goes far beyond the current ethics rules on gifts set by the city.

Supervisor Matt Haney said such moves are welcome, but the entire agency needs restructuring to prevent corruption – including greater oversight of the $12 million DPW awards annually to nonprofits.

"I think the interim director is well intentioned," Haney said after the meeting, "but I haven’t seen anything that’s going to fix the problems that I see and so that’s what we are going to keep pushing for."

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