The Controller's Office found at least one of these organizations, the San Francisco Parks Alliance, took roughly $1 million in donations from a number of city contractors which were under investigation by the City Attorney's Office for funneling money to the Public Works department for lavish parties, at the behest of former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, who was arrested by the FBI in January on corruption charges.
Those city contractors include the SF Clean City Coalition, Recology, PG&E, Clark Construction, Webcor Construction and Pankow Construction. They collectively donated $966,000 to the Parks Alliance into a Public Works-specific account — funds Nuru was able to freely direct, and sometimes himself was paid from — according to the report. Those same contractors were awarded more than $570 million in city contracts by the Public Works Department, according to the report.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued subpoenas investigating those same city contractors in February, in connection with the ongoing corruption scandal that first ensnared Nuru, but has only grown in the following months.
Nuru and others would direct staff to pay for goods and services for staff appreciation, volunteer programs, merchandise, community support and events from specific vendors, "circumventing city purchasing controls," the report found. These purchases would then be reimbursed through Public Works accounts held by the Parks Alliance "outside of city purchasing rules." Nuru would solicit those funds from contractors whose city contracts Nuru oversaw.
“This report makes it clear that pay-to-play has been happening in our city. We are putting a stop to it,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said, in a statement. “City officials cannot work behind the scenes with City contractors to benefit their departments and use other entities to cloak those efforts."
Drew Becher, CEO of the San Francisco Parks Alliance, expressed shock at the city's findings.
"Like everyone, we were outraged to learn of the public corruption in our local government,” Becher said, in a statement. “We did not benefit in any way nor had any control over the donations that Nuru and Public Works solicited and directed to the sub-account, as the report states. We are a trusted partner to many community groups and city departments and welcome any and all actions that bring more transparency and oversight to ensure the public’s trust.”
Nuru was arrested by the FBI in January and accused of attempting to bribe an airport official. Just last week, two city contractors pleaded guilty to bribing Nuru with the construction of his vacation home and a $36,000 gold Rolex watch in exchange for help in obtaining city contracts.