As part of the ongoing corruption scandal that upended business as usual at San Francisco City Hall last year, City Attorney Dennis Herrera has officially suspended five executives representing four companies that previously had city contracts or dealings with former Public Works chief Mohammed Nuru.
It turns out not be so simple to bar a contractor from doing future business with the city, and the debarment process involves legal complications and may require a criminal conviction. So, last August, Herrera introduced legislation that would allow for a suspension process that could be used until such time as a debarment could occur — while a contractor's civil or criminal case was still being tried.
"Corrupt contractors have no place in San Francisco," Herrera said at the time. "We need to ensure that our laws provide robust protections that empower the City to block contractors engaged in misconduct from receiving taxpayer dollars."
The ordinance was passed and became law in late December, and now, using this suspension power, Herrera has suspended Lefty O'Doul's owner Nick Bovis and his company SMTM Technology, LLC; Alan Varela and William Gilmartin and their company ProVen Management Inc.; Florence Kong and her companies SFR Recovery Inc. and Kwan Wo Ironworks Inc.; and permit expeditor Walter Wong and his companies W. Wong Construction Co., Inc., Green Source Trading, LLC, and Alternate Choice, LLC.
As Herrera's office explains in a release, these suspensions are the first of their kind, and all of these individuals have been criminally charged in connection with their dealings with Nuru and former Public Utilities Commission General Manager Harlan Kelly. Further debarment proceedings against the contractors are still to follow.
Bovis was arrested and indicted alongside Nuru in January 2020 for his alleged involvement in a series of schemes that had been investigated by the FBI over some period of years. In addition to allegedly conspiring with Nuru to get one of Bovis's Spinnerie chicken restaurants a spot at SFO, via a bribe to an airport commissioner, Bovis has been accused of helping funnel corrupt gifts from contractors to things like holiday parties for the Nuru's department. Bovis entered into a plea agreement with the feds last May that included his ongoing cooperation with the investigation, and Lefty O'Doul's filed for bankruptcy in October.
Kong pleaded guilty in October to bribery and lying to federal investigators, and she was sentenced last month to one year in federal prison. She admitted to bribing Nuru with a Rolex watch worth $40,000 in exchange for a city contract for one of her companies.
Wong took a plea deal last June and is cooperating with federal investigators. In his role as a permit expeditor, Wong was known to be able to get developers' projects more easily through San Francisco's often Byzantine permitting process. And for his alleged preferential treatment of Wong, SF's Department of Building Inspection head, Tom Hui, stepped down from his position last year. Wong was charged with paying for expensive international trips for Nuru.
As Herrera explains, Wong is also believed to been engaged in "an ongoing bribery scheme in which Kelly received gifts in exchange for assistance to Wong’s companies." And Wong was accused of funding a lavish Asia trip for Kelly and his wife while he was "attempting to win a multi-million-dollar contract to provide a 'smart' LED lighting system, through a contract through Green Source Trading, LLC."
Varela and Gilmartin were charged in September for allegedly bribing Nuru with expensive dinners and a tractor valued at $40,000 for Nuru's Colusa County vacation property. They had allegedly been seeking a backroom deal to build an asphalt recycling plant on Port of San Francisco property, and they have denied any wrongdoing.
Photo: Patrick Perkins