SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — During Tuesday’s San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Matt Haney introduced legislation that would eliminate what he calls “shakedown donations” — when a city department leader solicits donations from people seeking contracts or land use permits.
Haney’s Stop Shakedown Donations legislation comes after earlier this year Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru was arrested in connection with a never-completed scheme to bribe an San Francisco International Airport commissioner to help obtain a restaurant concession in 2018. He’s since been charged by federal prosecutors with honest services wire fraud and lying to the FBI.
In a subsequent investigation into public corruption, seven others have been charged, with some accused by prosecutors of providing Nuru with gifts worth several tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for help in obtaining a contract with a city department.
“What has become clear is that department heads can easily shake down contractors and people seeking to do business with the city for donations on the department head’s behalf or ‘behest.’ These shakedowns happen without any regulation, completely behind closed doors, and have allowed for blatantly unethical behavior,” Haney said in a statement.
Haney’s proposed legislation also comes after City Controller Ben Rosenfield released a Public Integrity Review last week of city laws that allowed Nuru to pressure firms seeking contracts to donate to third-party organizations that he had a close relationship with, without any requirement to report solicitations.
“These unregulated fundraising transactions have created a situation where contractors can access business with the city or receive preferential treatment because of donations given, rather than work that has been done. This is a massive disservice to the residents of San Francisco and a violation of the public trust,” Haney said.
Haney’s legislation would prohibit department heads from asking anyone person or entity doing business with or seeking to do business with their department for donations at the leader’s behest.
According to Haney, his office will work with the city’s Ethics Commission on the proposed legislation, to ensure it can effectively prevent corruption while also preserving key fundraising activities for city departments that rely heavily on philanthropy.
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