Herrera secures $1.7M settlement from Walter Wong, the permit expediter at the center of the public integrity investigation
Wong and his companies will repay $1.45M received under contracts with the City, plus pay $317,000 in penalties for ethics violations. The settlement also bars Wong and his companies from doing business with the City or acting as a permit expediter for five years.
SAN FRANCISCO (May 13, 2021) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Ethics Commission Executive Director LeeAnn Pelham today announced a civil settlement worth more than $1.7 million with Wing Lok “Walter” Wong and companies he controls. The settlement makes the City whole for $1.45 million in contracts and grants awarded to Wong and his companies through non-competitive processes by Public Works, the SFPUC, and in one instance a grant administered by the City Administrator’s Office. The settlement further requires payment of $317,650 in penalties and late fees for ethics violations.
This settlement is a capstone to the public integrity investigation of Wong’s role in the corruption scandal that has unfolded since January 2020. Wong was a connecting thread between separate misconduct by department heads at Public Works, the Department of Building Inspection and the SFPUC, the investigation has shown. The federal charging documents against then-Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru described an array of misconduct, including a conspiracy between Nuru, then-DBI Director Tom Hui, and Wong to influence work on a multi-use development project at 555 Fulton Street in San Francisco. Wong worked for the project developer as a permit expediter. Criminal charges filed later against Harlan Kelly, then the General Manager of the SFPUC, further alleged a conspiracy between Wong and City officials to obtain City contracts in exchange for gifts.
“San Francisco will not tolerate bribery and insider dealing,” Herrera said. “Everyone deserves clean government and a level playing field. This settlement ensures that taxpayers are made whole, maximum penalties are levied, and Mr. Wong loses the privilege of doing business with the City or acting as a permit expeditor. After 15 months of digging, our investigation has uprooted the culture of favoritism and self-dealing that existed among a clique of certain department heads. The men and women of this office are determined to prevent it from taking hold again. I want to recognize the outstanding work done by so many in our office, especially our Public Integrity, Code Enforcement, Ethics, and Labor and Employment Teams, in partnership with the Ethics Commission, the Controller’s Office, and the Department of Human Resources. These are professional civil servants who work every day — with no fanfare or public recognition — to ensure that those who violate the public’s trust are held accountable.” [Read more]
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