Following Monday's bombshell announcement of charges against SF Public Utilities Commission Director Harlan Kelly, following an FBI raid of his home, we now get word that his wife, City Administrator Naomi Kelly, has voluntarily — or under pressure from the mayor — taken a leave of absence.
Mayor London Breed was asked during a Tuesday pandemic briefing about whether Ms. Kelly would be remaining on the job following Monday's charges against her husband — and her mentions in the federal complaint against him. And Breed demurred saying that she and everyone were taking the charges seriously, etc. Now, as the Examiner reports, despite denying the accusations against her husband, Ms. Kelly has volunteered to take a leave of absence from City Hall for an unspecified amount of time.
The Examiner got a copy of Kelly's letter, and in it she delivers some blistering attacks on permit expeditor Walter Wong, who's also been charged by the feds and who took a plea deal in June that requires his cooperation with the ongoing federal corruption investigation. Harlan Kelly was charged with accepting a 2016 family trip to China from Wong, along with gifts and meals during the trip, in exchange for alleged insider information about contracts with the SFPUC.
"In light of recent events, I have decided to take a voluntary leave [to] focus on my family and especially on my two children, who have been devastated by public accusations and public speculation based on the word of a liar," Ms. Kelly writes. She adds that she'll be leaving her duties "in the hands of my excellent staff during this critical period."
She goes on to say she wants to "make three things very clear," including the fact that in her career in public service she has always "acted ethically and in the best interests of the people of the city that I love." And regarding Wong, she writes, "I will put my credibility up against his any day," and she calls him an "admitted felon who says otherwise." She further described Wong as a "disgraced and desperate man, who deceived many good people for many years and is now scrambling to use his manipulative skills to buy his freedom in the last years of his life."
Naomi Kelly was not charged alongside her husband, though it's unclear if separate charges may be pending. She is mentioned in the complaint against her husband as having participated in the China trip.
Wong was also accused of helping subsidize a similar trip to China for former Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, characterized by the feds as a bribe in exchanges for easier permitting for a client of Wong's who was developing the property at 555 Fulton Street.
As SFist reported previously, Ms. Kelly is said to have been the person who tipped off the FBI about Mohammed Nuru's violation of his cooperation agreement with investigators back in January — as you may recall, Nuru's arrest, which set the ball rolling on this scandal, happened after he appeared to be cooperating with the feds, but he allegedly called Kelly to tip off his City Hall friends about the coming onslaught.
It also sounded like back July the feds were looking into city contracts that were awarded to the Kellys' friend, Melanie Lok, with whom they share ownership of the building they live in in the Inner Sunset. But the latest charge against Harlan Kelly only related to accepting bribes from Wong.