A current city grant program director and a former city employee who’s now a consultant stand accused of the grant director funneling projects to the consultant, who in return allegedly kicked back more than $200,000 in checks to the director and her family.
The Mohammed Nuru bribery scandal brought down well-known city officials and saw prominent local business barons charged. The newest SF public corruption scandal involves names and departments hardly anyone has ever heard of, though the accused parties allegedly pocketed comparable or even greater sums of cash. The Bay Area News Group reports that one current and one former SF city employee were charged with bribery, misappropriation of public money, and financial conflict of interest in what prosecutors say was a four-year scheme to route taxpayer dollars into their own pockets.
As DA Brooke Jenkins announced Tuesday, director of the SF Community Challenge Grant Program Lanita Henriquez is accused of purloining more than $200,000 in checks (some of which were also allegedly showered on her family members), after directing $1.4 million in contracts to the consultancy firm of Dwayne Jones, RDJ Enterprises. The investigation was a joint effort by the DA's office and the FBI. As NBC Bay Area explains, Jones is a former city employee who helped create the “Community Benefits Program” that ended up giving his firm that $1.4 million.
“Community Benefits,” indeed.
And to their credit, NBC Bay Area smelled a rat on this one back in December 2020. They noted that Jones was working for the SF Public Utilities Commission literally while his firm received contracts from that commission’s Community Benefits Program.
“The charges announced today reflect my office’s on-going commitment to hold public officials accountable when they seek to enrich themselves at the public’s expense,” DA Jenkins said in a statement. “The public funds allocated to the City’s Community Challenge Grant Program are intended to benefit the communities of our City – not to line the pockets of government officials.”
Henriquez was arrested Tuesday morning, per the DA’s office, while Jones is still at large with an outstanding warrant. (Update: The SF Standard reports that Jones was arrested Wednesday afternoon and is being held on $50,000 bond.)
And according to the Bay Area News Group, “Calls to RDJ Enterprises were greeted with an answer and automated transfer to a sales pitch offering a special offer on a variety of products but no way of reaching Jones.”
Image: David Vives via Unsplash