A longtime contractor with the city of San Francisco and a well-known consultant known to be able to grease the wheels of city departments to get notoriously slow permit processes to magically speed up is going to be repaying over $1 million in contract awards to the city.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who'll likely soon be taking a job as general manager of the Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), announced Thursday that Walter Wong has agreed to settle a suit from the city for $1.45 million. In a news release, Herrera's office called the settlement "a capstone to the public integrity investigation" that has been ongoing of Wong's dealings at the city.
"San Francisco will not tolerate bribery and insider dealing,” Herrera said in a statement. “Everyone deserves clean government and a level playing field. This settlement ensures that taxpayers are made whole, maximum penalties are levied, and Mr. Wong loses the privilege of doing business with the City or acting as a permit expeditor."
In addition to refunding the contract monies, Wong agreed to pay $317,650 in penalties and fees, and he will be barred from doing business with the city for five years.
Wong pleaded guilty to fraud last June in the federal corruption probe that began with former Department of Public Works chief Mohammed Nuru and expanded outward from him. He was accused of using a chummy relationship with Department of Building Inspection Director Tom Hui to get permits processed for his clients, and of greasing other bureaucratic wheels as well. Wong was also named in an indictment against former SFPUC manager Harlan Kelly. Both Kelly and his wife Naomi Kelly, the former city administrator, resigned their posts late last year.
In her resignation letter to the mayor, Naomi Kelly referred to Wong, saying that the allegations against her husband were based on the "false statements of an admitted liar."
According to federal investigators, the Kellys took a trip to Asia that was bankrolled by Wong, and allegedly intended to curry favor Wong's clients, and to gain inside information on city contracts.
Investigators said Wong's business with the city amounted to a 15-year "scheme" to gain unfair advantages in real estate development. As the Chronicle reports, "Wong ran or controlled multiple businesses and other entities that tied to alleged schemes unearthed by federal and city investigators."
Herrera introduced legislation in August 2020 that bars Wong and at least three other former contractors with the city from doing future business, while their federal criminal cases are being decided.
Top Photo: Susana Bates for Drew Altizer Photography