City Attorney subpoenas 8 organizations in widening public corruption investigation

Probe also leads to cancellation of $171,000 portable toilet contract with company tied to restaurateur Nick Bovis; more contracts are under review

City Attorney Dennis Herrera

SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 12, 2020) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced today that he has issued eight subpoenas as part of a joint public corruption investigation with City Controller Ben Rosenfield. The probe stems from federal criminal charges filed against Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru and San Francisco restaurateur Nick Bovis that were made public on January 28.

Herrera issued the subpoenas today for records from eight companies and nonprofits that his office believes were involved in funneling donations to fund City programs and events, including funding Public Works holiday parties. The subpoenas are being served on for-profit utility PG&E; construction firms Webcor, Pankow and Clark Construction; recycling company Recology; and three nonprofits: Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation for Kids, the San Francisco Parks Alliance, and the San Francisco Clean City Coalition. A total of 10 subpoenas are being issued because some of the companies have more than one corporate entity.

“We’re following the facts, and we’re following the money,” Herrera said. “We are going to follow the evidence wherever it leads. We will get to the bottom of this. San Franciscans deserve no less.”

Federal officials have accused Nuru and Bovis of designing several corruption schemes, including allegedly trying to steer city contracts to Bovis. Nuru is also accused of lying to the FBI, having City contractors perform free or discounted work on his vacation home, and accepting luxury travel gifts from a billionaire Chinese developer seeking help with a development in San Francisco.  The San Francisco Examiner recently reported that city contractors Webcor, Pankow and Recology allegedly funneled money through Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation for Kids, ostensibly a children’s baseball charity that Bovis ran, to pay for a $30,000 holiday party for Public Works staff.

One of the schemes that the federal government alleges is that Nuru provided Bovis with inside information on a City project involving portable bathroom toilets. The City Attorney and Controller’s investigation identified that this scheme related to a $171,000 contract that Public Works awarded to a Bovis-related entity named SMTM Technology LLC. On February 7, 2020, the City terminated that contract for non-performance by the required deadline. The City did not pay any money under the contract. In connection with its ongoing investigation, the City Attorney’s Office, working with the Controller, has identified and is reviewing other contracts that Public Works and other City departments had with contractors described but not named in the federal complaint.

About the Independent City Investigation

With the support of the Controller’s Office, the City Attorney’s Public Integrity and Investigations Team is leading the investigation into alleged wrongdoing. In addition to identifying employees or officials involved in potential violations of local law, the investigation will identify contracts, grants, and other government decisions possibly tainted by conflicts of interest and other legal or policy violations.

At the same time, the Controller’s Office, in cooperation with the City Attorney’s Office, is reviewing Public Works contracts, purchase orders, and grants for red flags and process failures, in consultation with finance teams at the Department of Public Works and the Office of Contract Administration. The Controller’s Office is working with the City Attorney’s Office’s to identify whether stop payments or cancellations are justified on any open contracts and purchase orders.

City Attorney’s Role

The City Attorney is an independent elected official who answers directly to San Francisco voters, not any other elected official or body. The City Attorney’s Office is independent from the legislative branch and the executive branch. City Attorney Dennis Herrera was first elected to his post in 2001 and was most recently re-elected in November 2019.

State law expressly gives the City Attorney the authority to act as civil prosecutor for violations of the Political Reform Act, including instances where a public official attempts to use his or her official position to influence a governmental decision in which the public official has a financial interest. (Government Code sections 91001.5 and 87100.) The San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code authorizes the City Attorney to act as a civil prosecutor for violations of any San Francisco conflict of interest or governmental ethics law.


To report suspected public integrity abuses regarding this investigation, please contact the Public Integrity Tip Line. You can provide information via e-mail at or by phone at (415) 554-7657. All tips may be submitted anonymously and will remain confidential. Information regarding City payments, searchable by department and vendor, are available on the Controller’s public transparency website at As always, any member of the public may file any allegation of improper or illegal public activity with the City’s Whistleblower Program at That program, administered by the Controller’s Office, often partners with the City Attorney’s Office on investigations.