March 3, 2020

USA: San Francisco Bought $5 Million’s Worth Of Garbage Bins From A Vendor With Ties To Ousted Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. SF Mayor Admits Past Romance With Mohammed Nuru.

NBC News, SF Bay area
written by Jaxon Van Derbeken
Friday February 28, 2020

San Francisco bought $5 million’s worth of garbage bins from a vendor with ties to ousted Public Works director Mohammed Nuru, according to documents obtained by NBC Bay Area.

The distinctive green containers line many of the city’s major streets, emblazoned with the city logo in gold. They are supposed to allow for both garbage and recycling, but San Francisco city Supervisor Aaron Peskin pointed to one outside City Hall this week and said bins are part of the problem, not the solution.

“The garbage can right there is a terrible garbage can -- it’s a joke, everyone in the town of San Francisco knows it.”

The problem, he says, is that recyclables end up falling into the garbage. And the garbage spills out onto the street surrounding the bin. The doors break open and the bins are easily knocked over onto the street.

“Our streets are littered with trash cans that are helping litter our streets,” Peskin said.

Peskin said he could never understand why Nuru so zealously defended the cans – steadfastly refusing to buy alternatives as too costly -- until now.

Records obtained by NBC Bay Area’s investigative unit show the vendor for the $1,200 “Renaissance” cans, Alternate Choice LLC, as part of an agreement that ran from January 2018 until January of this year.

State business records show Alternate Choice is jointly run by Walter Wong’s son, Washington Wong and his daughter-in-law, Kaiting Wong, out of Wong’s offices in a building at 13th and Mission streets. Kaiting Wong signed the city contract.

Federal investigators searched Wong’s businesses – including Alternate Choice -- as part of the corruption probe. The City Attorney has since subpoenaed Alternate Choice and other Wong companies in its probe.

While Wong has not been charged, Nuru as well as a local restaurateur, Nick Bovis, face federal wire fraud charges. Documents in the case refer to a “Contractor 2” – believed to be Walter Wong – as having arranged to provide Nuru to get expensive gifts, including trips to China, in exchange for Nuru helping to get an unnamed development project permitted. The City Attorney issued subpoenas this week for that development, at 555 Fulton Street, as well as firms tied to the Chinese billionaire who allegedly enlisted Wong to help get the project permitted.

No one at Wong’s offices would comment for this story. On Thusrday, the City Attorney revealed that the city did not extend the Alternate Choice contract to supply more garbage cans.

Peskin says when the scandal came to light, he finally understood why Nuru fought so hard, given his evident ties to Wong as revealed by the investigation.

“It finally explained the entire situation,” Peskin said, adding that he hopes to hold hearings starting next week to find out more about the corruption scandal.

KPIX CBS SF Bay Area published Friday February 14, 2020: San Francisco Mayor London Breed disclosed that she has been long-time friends with former Public Works director Mohammad Nuru and even dated him at one point. Wilson Walker reports.

Fox News
written by Brie Stimson
Saturday February 15, 2020

San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Friday admitted having a 20-year friendship and brief romantic relationship with a former city worker now under FBI investigation, prompting some to call for her resignation.

“I write this in the spirit of transparency because in the wake of a scandal at City Hall, I think San Franciscans are entitled to hear directly from their Mayor,” Breed wrote in a post on Medium of her association with former San Francisco public works director Mohammed Nuru, who was indicted for public corruption last month.

At a news conference, Breed explained she wrote the post because there were “a number of rumors” swirling and she wanted San Franciscans to hear about the relationship directly from her, the Bay Area's FOX 2 reported.

Breed wrote she was profoundly shocked and disappointed when she heard about the charges against Nuru.

“To be clear,” she wrote. “I never asked Mohammed Nuru to do anything improper, and he never asked me to do anything improper.”

Still, she admitted accepting $5,600 from Nuru last year for a car repair and hasn’t yet paid him back. She said the disclosure was not required but she did it out of transparency.

Supervisor Gordon Mar suggested the mayor should temporarily step back from her duties, according to FOX 2.

"Mayor Breed's admission of thousands of dollars in unreported gifts from a subordinate is likely illegal, certainly unethical, and part of a culture of casual corruption that is eroding the faith of the public,” Mar said in a statement. “Given the seriousness of this admission, the direct connection to the central figure in the FBI's investigation into public corruption, I believe we need to put the people of San Francisco first. I believe Mayor Breed should do the right thing and temporarily step back from her duties until a full, independent investigation can be completed."

Supervisor Hillary Ronen, a political opponent, called the admission “troubling” and said Breed should resign.

Supervisor Dean Preston said Breed should appear before the Board of Supervisors.

"I am deeply concerned with revelations today that Mayor London Breed violated San Francisco law by taking thousands of dollars in gifts from a City Hall subordinate," he tweeted.
Breed added, "I will not apologize for dating someone two decades ago. I will not apologize for remaining close friends with him and his family for 20 more years. But neither will I make excuses for any misdeeds."

Nuru and restaurant owner Nick Bovis were arrested late last month and charged with corruption and lying to the FBI.

They are accused of attempting to bribe an airport commissioner to vote in favor of allowing a business owned by Bovis at the airport and accepting gifts from a Chinese developer in town for business, FOX 2 reported.

Nuru resigned this week but both men deny the accusations.

KPIX CBS SF Bay Area published Jan 28, 2020: San Francisco Official And Restaurant Owner Facing Corruption Charges. Wilson Walker reports on SF Director of Department of Public Works being arrested for a variety of corruption schemes

NBC News, SF Bay Area
written by Jaxon Van Derbeken and Michael Bott
Monday March 2, 2020

Emails obtained by NBC Bay Area’s Investigative unit reveal that two figures in San Francisco’s public works corruption scandal traveled together to Africa.

The emails – between ousted Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru and Balmore Hernandez, CEO of Azul Works Inc. – indicate the two took a three week trip together to South Africa in the summer of 2014.

One of the emails, dated June 2, 2014, shows that Hernandez drew up a detailed itinerary and sent it to Nuru, saying: “I know you have it all planned in your head but this spreadsheet can be easily modified and may help us. Thanks, Balmore."

It is not clear who was paying for hotels or other expenses but the itinerary shows that both Nuru and Hernandez booked stays.

Federal charging documents allege that Contractor 1 – identified by sources with knowledge of the investigation as Hernandez – had furnished Nuru a free John Deere tractor and low-cost labor on his vacation home in Colusa County, in exchange for Nuru’s “behind the scenes” help with Azul Works’ contract to upgrade Van Ness Avenue in 2018.

While Nuru faces federal charges of lying to the FBI and wire fraud, Hernandez has not been charged in the case.

One critic was quick to seize on the emails as evidence of bidding cronyism at the city’s Department of Public Works.

“Now we see there is evidence coming to light – and It’s just the tip of the ice berg,” said attorney John Knadler, who sued the city alleging his client, San Francisco contractor Synergy Project Management, wrongly lost out on a multi-million job upgrading Van Ness Avenue.

Azul later got at least $2 million worth of that work, federal charging documents allege.

Knadler said Monday that he and his client suspected Synergy lost out on the Van Ness job for refusing to take part in any “pay to play” relationship in the bidding process. However, that allegation is not made in the legal filings in the case.

“We always said there was something going on behind the scenes,” Knadler said, but added that the court refused to force the city to turn over emails and other communications that might have substantiated that claim. Knadler says he now intends to use the latest emails to bolster Synergy’s appeal, after having lost its contract lawsuit against the city last year in federal court.

“It’s shocking and should make the public angry that people (who) are bidding on public contracts are also wining and dining and hobnobbing with the people that decide who gets those contracts,” Knader said.

Meanwhile, NBC Bay Area has learned Azul Works is on a list of contractors whose payments have been flagged for more scrutiny by the City Controller’s office, although the controller’s memo to city department heads stresses that merely being on the list is not a finding of wrongdoing.

Attorneys for Nuru and Hernandez did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

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