Bigger fish are frying in the ever-expanding Mohammed Nuru DPW scandal, as the head of SF’s Public Utilities Commission has his home raided, gets charged with fraud, and possibly faces 20 years in prison.
Those of us who prepare popcorn when there are major political scandals have spent 2020 generally assuming that the Mohammed Nuru DPW scandal would eventually be known by a different name, because it would ensnare bigger fish than Nuru, and perhaps even cover a wider array of city departments. That time has now arrived.
Monday was a dizzying day in that sprawling public corruption probe, as the Chronicle had the scoop early this afternoon that the FBI had raided the home of SF Public Utilities Commission chief Harlan Kelly, and not long later, federal prosecutors charged him with fraud.
BREAKING: The FBI raided PUC chief Harlan Kelly's home this morning in the latest twist in the corruption scandal at San Francisco City Hall. Kelly's wife, City Administrator Naomi Kelly, and their two boys were present during the raid. Via @meganrcassidy. https://t.co/M87aZoKuei— Heather Knight (@hknightsf) November 30, 2020
The raid of Kelly’s home is significant, because he is married to City Administrator Naomi Kelly, and we already knew that the FBI was probing for sweetheart deals that benefited their personal finances. Naomi Kelly is not named in the latest FBI criminal complaint, though there are references to “his wife,” and she is quite likely in some trouble here. Among the illegal gifts Harlan Kelly is accused of accepting is a lavish trip for his family, and the FBI has WeChat messages from Harlan Kelly saying “Thank you for the best family vacation ever! A little something for everyone!”
BREAKING: Harlan Kelly, director of the SF Public Utilities Commission, charged with fraud for bribery scheme— Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez (@FitzTheReporter) November 30, 2020
via US Attorneys Office in SF pic.twitter.com/PJ0whHrZG5
And who was he thanking for the best family vacation ever? None other than permit expediter Walter Wong, who also helped subsidize Mohammed Nuru’s alleged kickback bribe trip to China (why is always China?), and of course is now cooperating with the feds. Obviously, anyone with a Walter Wong connection should not speak without their attorney present.
It gets better! As the Chron’s Dominic Fracassa points out above, the FBI’s complaint also mentions allegations regarding “a former San Francisco mayor,” to which many readers may react “Please let it be Willie Brown! Please let it be Willie Brown! Please let it be Willie Brown!”
But judge for yourself: The FBI’s complaint says that “The reference to ‘35’ was a code that Wong and [Harlan] Kelly used to refer to a former San Francisco mayor. The number 35 corresponds to the letters for the official’s initials on a numeric telephone keypad. I have seen coded references to ‘35’ as early as 2013 in text messages between Kelly and Wong.”
On a numeric telephone keypad 3 is an ‘E’ and 5 is an ‘L.’ Ed Lee was mayor of San Francisco when the above-described incident took place in 2014.
Statement from Mayor London Breed on the Resignation of San Francisco Public Utilities Commission General Manager Harlan Kelly - https://t.co/o11wAzlghD— Mayor London Breed's Press Office (@MyrPressOffice) November 30, 2020
Aaaand that was fast. Shortly before the publication of this post, Mayor Breed released a statement saying she had “accepted Harlan Kelly’s resignation as General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The allegations detailed in the Federal Investigation conducted by the US Attorney’s Office are disturbing and unacceptable for anyone serving in our government, let alone the leader of one of our largest departments.”
For now, though, Naomi Kelly remains city administrator of the City and County of San Francisco.