San Francisco City Attorney Issues Subpoenas in Public Corruption Probe

The subpoenas come after Mohammed Nuru resigned from his post as San Francisco Public Works director.

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The city of San Francisco issued investigative subpoenas Wednesday seeking records of contributions by major companies doing business with the city.  The subpoenas went out to five private companies and three San Francisco non-profits, including one set up by Nick Bovis, a businessman and key figure in the corruption scandal surrounding the city Department of Public Works.

The subpoenas demand detailed documentation of contributions from PG&E, recycling contractor Recology, as well as three construction firms --  Webcor, Pankow, and Clark Construction, of any contributions each gave to three non-profits: Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation for Kids, the San Francisco Parks Alliance, and the San Francisco Clean City Coalition.

Some of the subpoenas also refer specifically to any direct contributions to holiday parties for city departments. The San Francisco Examiner recently reported that Recology, Webcor and Pankow contributed a total of $30,000 into Bovis’ Lefty O’Doul’s foundation for the Public Works Department holiday party last year.

“We’re following the facts, and we’re following the money,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera, in a statement. “We are going to follow the evidence wherever it leads. We will get to the bottom of this. San Franciscans deserve no less.”

An NBC Bay Area review of tax filings for the three non-profits hit with subpoenas Wednesday reveals financial links between the three charities dating back to at least 2015.

That year, the San Francisco Clean City Coalition provided $122,000 in grant funds to the San Francisco Parks Alliance and $20,000 in grant funds to Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation For Kids, according to publicly available tax filings.

Tax filings for the San Francisco Clean City Coalition stated those contributions were made for the “Giant Sweep Program,” an anti-litter campaign founded in 2013 as a partnership between Mayor Ed Lee and the San Francisco Giants, according to the program’s website.

The $20,000 grant provided to the Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation For Kids represented more than 90% of the charity’s reported revenue that year.

It’s unclear why the San Francisco Clean City Coalition would donate money to a charity dedicated to providing baseball equipment to underprivileged kids.

Tax filings for Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation For Kids show the charity spent about $17,000 that year, none of which appears to have gone towards an anti-littering program.

The charity spent just $2,671 on baseball-related grants. The rest went to professional fees, payments to independent contractors, advertising, insurance, and office expenses.

Detailed tax filings for the Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation For Kids are not publicly available after 2015, so it’s unclear how much money the organization has raised since then, where that money came from, and what the charity spent it on. A website for the charity remains active.

Records show the San Francisco Clean City Coalition did not donate any money to the Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation For Kids in the two following years, but it did maintain financial ties to the San Francisco Parks Alliance.

Tax filings show roughly $450,000 from the San Francisco Clean City Coalition flowed into the San Francisco Park’s Alliance between 2016 and 2018.

The two officers at the helm of the San Francisco Clean City Coalition – Executive Director Gia Grant and Director of Operations Roberto Rivera – were paid $179,000 and $140,000 respectively in 2018, according to tax filings.

The charities did not return calls from NBC Bay Area Wednesday afternoon seeking comment.

The identified companies said they will comply with the subpoena.

Webcor went further, confirming they made contributions to the Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation For Kids, but said they did so at the request of San Francisco Public Works.

The former head of Public Works, Mohammed Nuru, has been charged federally with corruption and lying to the FBI. Bovis is charged with attempting to give a $5,000 bribe an airport commissioner to obtain a lucrative airport concession lease.  

Federal authorities allege Bovis got inside information from Nuru to help him bid on a contract to provide portable public bathrooms.  The city’s corruption probe identified a $171,000 DPW contract with SMTM Technology LLC, a firm tied to Bovis.

Last week, the city terminated that contract for not meeting deadlines and no payments were made under it, according to the City Attorney’s office.  The city is also probing other city contracts based on descriptions  provided of alleged participants in the federal complaint.

Recology provided the following statement to NBC Bay Area on Wednesday:

"Following recent media accounts, Recology launched an investigation into contributions made to the Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation for Kids, the San Francisco Parks Alliance, and the San Francisco Clean City Coalition. In addition, on Monday February 10th, Recology proactively and voluntarily contacted the San Francisco City Attorney’s office and pledged to cooperate with any investigation. Recology is committed to operating with the highest ethical standards and will fully cooperate with the pending investigations in this matter."

Pankow Builders' CEO Scott Anderson provided the following statement:

"Pankow has a long-standing history of excellence and integrity. Our charitable contributions to nonprofit organizations – those designated as 501(c)(3) by the Internal Revenue Service, such as The Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation for Kids – are always intended to support the communities in which we live and work; we believe these contributions are a direct reflection on our value of Integrity. Pankow has never had a need to vet our charitable donations beyond the process the IRS already has in place. In response to a subpoena from the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, we are committed to providing any and all documents related to our charitable contributions."

Subpoenas

A top San Francisco official tasked with keeping the streets clean has been charged with public corruption in schemes that include offering a bribe for space at San Francisco International Airport, providing inside information to a friend seeking permits to build homeless shelters and accepting lavish gifts from a billionaire Chinese developer. Mark Matthews reports.
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