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Official Placed on Leave in SF Bribery Case, City Begins Sweeping Investigation of Contracts

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A woman wearing a red dress shirt, dark pants and red shoes opens a door with two other people dressed in blue sitting on a bench next to each other outside the room.
Lanita Henriquez leaves a San Francisco Superior Court courtroom Aug. 31, 2023 after pleading not guilty to bribery charges. (Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/KQED)

Update, 1 p.m. Friday: After a San Francisco official pleaded not guilty on Thursday to felony bribery and corruption charges, the city still moved forward Friday with a number of actions aimed to limit the impact of the alleged bribery scheme.

The City Administrator’s Office announced it would place Lanita Henriquez on paid administrative leave following felony charges that she took bribes to award $1.4 million in contracts to an organization run by her co-conspirator, Dwayne Jones.

All the city grants Henriquez awarded to his group, RDJ Enterprises, as well as other organizations, will also be reviewed by the City Attorney’s Office in an integrity review, which looks for corruption issues, a spokesperson announced.

Additionally, the city attorney and city administrator began a process to bar Jones, and any of his affiliates, from taking any other contracts with the city.

District Attorney Brooke Jenkins also charged Jones, who was arrested separately from Henriquez, in connection with the bribery scheme. He appeared in court for the first time Friday, surrounded by a bevy of supporters who nearly filled one side of the courtroom.

A group of people in an indoor setting walking through a doorway.
Dwayne Jones (center) appears in court for the first time after being charged with felony counts of bribery and aiding and abetting the misuse of public funds in San Francisco on Sept. 1, 2023. (Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/KQED)

Speaking from the steps of the Hall of Justice, one of those supporters, Robert Newt, who grew up in San Francisco and is from the Bayview, said Jones helped Newt turn his life around in the mid-1990s. At the time, Jones hired roughly 80 people at-risk of violence in the neighborhood and helped them change their lives, Newt said, including himself.

Now Newt serves in multiple organizations in the neighborhood trying to mentor people away from a life of violence, he said. That’s a path he credits to Jones.

“He gave me some encouragement, he gave me some mentoring, and he gave me some guidance,” Newt said. “We’re trying to break the cycle and create generational wealth, and that’s what Dwayne Jones taught me.”

Superior Court Judge Victor Hwang delayed Jones’ arraignment to Sept. 18, when he will appear beside Henriquez. He did not yet enter a plea.

Original story, Thursday, Aug. 31:

A San Francisco official in charge of disbursing community grants pleaded not guilty in Superior Court Thursday to felony bribery and corruption charges.

Lanita Henriquez, 53, who is the director of San Francisco’s Community Challenge Grant Program, was charged with multiple felony counts of bribery, misappropriation of public funds and aiding and abetting a financial conflict of interest in a government contract, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins’ Office announced Tuesday.

Jenkins also filed an affidavit in court Thursday that revealed new details about the corruption allegations: That the investigation into the corruption began after a news article initially exposed contracting misconduct, and that other city agencies — like the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission — were also targets of the investigation.

In Henriquez’s arraignment Thursday, Superior Court Judge Victor Hwang set a future hearing date of Sept. 18. Henriquez was arrested Tuesday but was later released. She left court Thursday with a small contingent of supporters.

Henriquez and her supporters declined to comment.

In a press conference Thursday, Jenkins said Henriquez betrayed the public’s trust.

“We have a job to ensure that the way that our government functions is legally and ethically,” Jenkins told reporters. “We cannot overlook the fact that in this situation someone was being awarded San Francisco city contracts because he was paying off a city employee. That is illegal and can’t be tolerated in this city.”

Henriquez, her family members and close associates allegedly netted nearly $200,000 in bribes from entities controlled by Rudolph Dwayne Jones, 56. In return, Henriquez allegedly awarded 23 contracts worth roughly $1.4 million to entities Jones controlled. The DA’s Office said the scheme ranged from July 2016 through July 2020.


Jones, was also charged in connection with the scheme and is set to appear in court on Friday.

Jones is a politically-connected consultant and founder of RDJ Enterprises, a workforce development firm. Jones also served in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mayoral administration as San Francisco’s director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Development.

The contracts Henriquez awarded came from the Community Challenge Grant Program, which was created by San Francisco voters after the passage of Proposition D on the June 1990 ballot. Although those funds eventually made their way to RDJ Enterprises, other entities served as a fiscal sponsor, like the A. Philip Randolph Institute’s San Francisco Chapter, according to the affidavit.

A person stands speaks from behind a podium in front of a large bookcase of law books.
SF District Attorney Brooke Jenkins addresses charges against an SF city official accused of taking bribes to award city contracts on Aug. 31, 2023. (Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/KQED)

“We are not alleging any misconduct by the A. Philip Randolph Institute whatsoever,” Jenkins said Thursday.

District Attorney Jenkins also charged Jones with one count of misappropriation of public money, and 23 counts of aiding and abetting a financial conflict of interest in a government contract.

Jones is set to appear in court Friday.

Herniquez earned a salary of $157,000 in 2022, according to Transparent California, a database of California public employee salaries. Jones allegedly paid Henriquez, her family members and close associates through 48 separate checks written directly from his company, RDJ Enterprises.

The District Attorney’s Office highlighted some of the numerous emails and text messages that allegedly show the scheme at play, including a Feb. 26, 2019 email between Henriquez and one of the people she helped take money from Jones.

“When you cash the check, you keep $400. I’ll give you $4000 out the money. So you’ll get $4000 a check … we’ll get one every month for the next 10 mons,” Henriquez wrote this person, who was either close family or an associate. The next day, that unnamed payee cashed a check from RDJ Enterprises at a Wells Fargo Bank branch in Oakland.

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At least one witness told investigators that Henriquez dated Jones, which was “part of my concern with Dwayne.”

The charges against Henriquez and Jones were the result of a partnership between the DA’s office and FBI, coming on the heels of multiple developments in a wide-ranging San Francisco City Hall corruption scandal that was revealed in 2020.

The investigation started in the District Attorney’s Office in 2021 under then-District Attorney Chesa Boudin, when an unnamed-newspaper article pointed to corruption on the part of Jones, according to an affidavit the DA’s Office filed Thursday. Jones allegedly used his position as a San Francisco Public Utilities Commission consultant to “steer payments” from SFPUC contractors away from charitable causes and into a nonprofit organization he was associated with, called the Southeast Consortium for Equitable Partnerships.

That news article prompted Jon Golinger, a former city activist and later-San Francisco District Attorney’s Office Investigator, to investigate Jones.

Once Golinger obtained Jones’ bank records through a warrant, he “discovered evidence leading him to believe that (Jones) may have committed additional criminal misconduct in relation to a different San Francisco city agency,” according to the affidavit.

That agency is the Office of the City Administrator, which oversees the community challenge grant program that Henriquez disbursed contracts for. The Office of the City Administrator has been touched by another scandal, as former City Administrator Naomi Kelly stepped down amid allegations that her husband, Harlan Kelly, took bribes from a city contractor, including while on a trip to China that both Kelly’s, husband and wife, attended. Harlan Kelly was convicted on bribery charges just last month.

When asked if other city agencies are under investigation related to Jones’ activities, Jenkins declined to comment.

In mid-July, a former senior inspector in the Department of Building Inspection, Bernie Curran, was sentenced to a year-and-a-day in federal prison for accepting bribes to perform his job.

And, just last week, Rodrigo Santos, a former City College of San Francisco trustee and president of the Building Inspection Commission, who was appointed by mayors Willie Brown, Gavin Newsom, and Ed Lee, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in federal prison for stealing roughly $1.6 million from his clients and business partner.

A San Francisco City Attorney’s Office civil lawsuit against Santos for defrauding clients, illegally excavating in city neighborhoods and completing unpermitted work is ongoing.


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