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Officials implement fraud safeguards amid ongoing corruption investigation

As the San Francisco city attorney and controller continue their investigation of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru for alleged bribery schemes, they have also implemented interim safeguards to prevent further fraud.

According to both officials, any new contract awards or changes to contracts will now have to be approved by City Attorney Dennis Herrera and will be jointly reviewed with Controller Ben Rosenfield.

Among other charges, Nuru is accused by federal officials of attempting to sway city contracts over to Nick Bovis, owner of the well-known Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant and bar. 

Lefty O'Doul's dispute
Sara Gaiser/BCN Nick Bovis removes horseshoes commemorating retired police horses at Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant on Geary Street near Union Square. The ownership of the restaurant’s name and memorabilia is under dispute.

As part of the local investigation, Herrerra and Rosenfield said they are reviewing contracts that may have been tainted, focusing specifically on those involving the Department of Public Works. 

The Controller’s Office is reviewing all DPW contracts, purchase orders and grants for red flags and is working closely the department’s finance staff and the Office of Contract Administration. The Controller’s Office will alert the city attorney of any suspected misconduct.

Both the city attorney and controller will decide if they need to order stop payments or cancellations on contracts and open orders. 

Herrera said in a statement:

“When the integrity of San Francisco’s government is called into question, it is our duty to get to the bottom of it and change what isn’t working. That’s what the City Charter calls for, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We are going to follow the evidence wherever it leads.”

Additionally, the investigation is looking into practices related to contract awards at the Airport Commission and Transbay Joint Powers Authority.

Ching Wong/SFBay San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Geary Rapid Project in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. (Ching Wong/SFBay)

Both entities were mentioned in the federal complaint. Nuru and Bovis allegedly attempted to bribe former Airport Commissioner Linda Crayton with $5,000 to vote in favor of an airport restaurant lease.

Nuru is also accused of asking TJPA Executive Director Mark Zabaneh to help Bovis obtain a restaurant lease at the Transbay Transit Center.

The Controller’s Office plans to make public recommendations to Mayor London Breed and the Board of Supervisors based on the investigation’s findings. The first set of recommendations will made in the next 30 days.

Rosenfield said in a statement:

“My office is focused on ensuring that public funds are spent wisely and properly. That is our job. Anytime there are allegations that public funds are being abused, we are going to review what occurred and promote practices to prevent it from happening in the future.”

In a statement provided Tuesday, Mayor London Breed said: 

“While the investigation into the allegations against Mohammed Nuru is ongoing, we do know a serious breach of the public trust has occurred. We also know that we can and must take action to root out any illegal activities or ethical violations that have taken place in the impacted departments and in the City of San Francisco.”

Breed has formally directed all city departments to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Both offices have said they are independent from The City’s executive branch despite calls from at least three supervisors — Matt Haney, Dean Preston and Gordon Mar — for a separate and independent investigation.

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