The curious case of a former Planning Commissioner’s alleged house-flipping scheme is back in the news, after accusations of secret back-channeling between the Board of Appeals and Department of Building Inspection.
The single most entertaining San Francisco Board of Appeals meeting this reporter has ever covered was a December 2019 meeting, where then-Planning Commissioner Dennis Richards yelled at the board, “I think you should tell Mr. Ed Sweeney and his crew to go fuck themselves. Quote.” That was a reference to deputy director of Department of Building Inspection Edward Sweeney, whose department had recently revoked Richards’ building permits on a 22nd Street fixer-upper, and indeed there was fallout. Richards would take a leave of absence, and then step down from the Planning Commission, which seemed to be the end of all that.
The story is front and center again, as the Chronicle reports the city is facing a lawsuit from a Board of Appeals paralegal who claims the board back-channeled some interference on behalf of the DBI. She says that board president Darryl Honda removed evidence from the file of that infamous case that made Richards blow his top, and she called out the irregularity, and within a year found herself fired.
That evidence was text messages from Honda to Richards, sent before the case was before the board. Richards had criticized the DBI for “out of control, criminal activity,” (he’s got a point!), so Honda allegedly texted him, saying, “hey bro, there’s some not so nice stuff going around about you right now. What’s up.”
Richards apparently included that text as evidence in his appeal of the permit revocation, yet it curiously disappeared. The now-fired paralegal Katy Sullivan’s lawsuit says she tried “to call out the fact that the documents were missing,” and that she learned the evidence was “removed from the file by Commissioner Honda ... who had no right to remove it.”
Obviously, Richards is feeling pretty validated by the new information. “It’s shocking that Commissioner Honda would apparently go to such lengths to hide this information and it raises serious questions about what else has been done out of the public eye,” he told the Chronicle. “We are certainly looking into this. And I’ll add that I’m deeply troubled Ms. Sullivan may have faced professional sanctions for speaking out about wrongdoings.”
Meanwhile, Richards has his own lawsuit against the city and DBI, and Mission Local combed through it and found all manner of “gems” of alleged DBI corruption. Their top-line finding was that indicted former DBI commission president “RoDBIgo” Santos had hired two of disgraced ex-DBI director Tom Hui’s children (before the FBI hammers came down), ensuring mutual back-scratching on Santos’ projects. But it also notes that Ed Sweeney apparently admitted under oath that he’d improperly skirted rules to get Richards’ permits revoked, that he’d asked Honda to send the text in hopes of getting Richards to shut his mouth. He quickly retired once the myriad DBI scandals started breaking.
So ironically, in a sense, Ed Sweeney did in fact fuck himself.
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