A former Recology VP gets charged for bribing and laundering money to Mohammed Nuru, and the City Controller is calling to just break up the whole Recology arrangement in SF.
San Francisco’s nearly 100-year-old garbage-collection monopoly deal with Recology remains in effect, despite that Recology has been badly tarred in the wide-ranging City Hall corruption scandal that’s been unfolding over the last 15 months. Recology has essentially admitted guilt to bribing Mohammed Nuru into approving rate hikes by agreeing to reimburse customers nearly $100 million. But the company could have plausibly claimed it was just a single "rogue employee," criminally charged community relations manager Paul Giusti who was doing all the bribing, and no further corruption went up the chain of command.
But that excuse is no longer operable, as the Examiner reported Thursday the Department of Justice charged another Recology executive with bribery and money laundering. This time it is former Recology vice president and manager of its San Francisco group John Porter, and even more worrisome for Recology, the criminal complaint makes charges toward Porter “or Porter’s immediate predecessor.”
Mission Local sleuthed it out to determine that Porter’s immediate predecessor “appears to be Mark Arsenault, who has since left the company.”
Despite the initial Willie Brown argument that this was just small potatoes bribery with tractors and bottles of wine, these new DOJ charges note far larger sums of money. The allegations involve “tipping fees” that the city was paying extra (with your tax dollars) to have Recology dump materials at their sustainable crushing facility, and from the sounds of this criminal complaint, it may have been the higher-ranking Porter, not Giusti, who was really pulling the strings on these alleged bribes.
According to a Thursday announcement from a U.S. Attorney’s Office, “Porter emailed Nuru seeking assistance in obtaining the tipping fee increase on November 26, 2018. Thereafter, Giusti agreed to give Nuru a bribe of $20,000 to influence his official actions on the proposed increase. The complaint describes that Porter gave written approval for Recology to issue a $20,000 check described as a 'holiday donation to the Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation for Kids.'"
You’ll recall that this money was spent on lavish parties, and not charitable efforts for underprivileged kids. Moreover, the complaint asserts that “Despite the bribe, the attempt to increase the tipping fee was ultimately unsuccessful.”
But it gets worse. The DOJ complaint continues that “Porter’s role in the Recology San Francisco Group’s efforts, acting through executives including Giusti and Porter, to direct benefits to Nuru totaling over $1 million to influence Nuru, who was Recology’s regulator.”
They say they have a 2015 email from Porter saying, “Mohammed is the Director of the DPW who ultimately signs off on our rates. Needless to say, keeping him happy is important.”
The Recology aspect to this no-longer-just-Nuru scandal is entirely separate from the bribes from permit expediters, the Public Utilities Commission bribes, the cash payments to “Girlfriend 1” Sandra Zuniga, and the other various dirty laundry and improprieties. But Recology could face longer-term structural consequences from all this.
NBC Bay Area reports that the City Controller’s office released a report Wednesday urging the city to reexamine the Recology monopoly arrangement the waste company has to handle our trash and recycling. The Controller’s office complained their rate-setting process “lacks transparency and timely safeguards,” though notes ending the monopoly would require a ballot measure approval from SF voters. Such a measure failed in 2012.
But that was before the Department of Justice slapped Recology with all of the bribery and money laundering charges, and there may be more of those to come.
Related: Nuru Doled Out More Than $10 Million in City Contracts With Zero Oversight, Says City Controller [SFist]
Image: Recology SF via Twitter