AzulWorks, Inc. provided illegal gifts to former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru as part of a bribery scheme while receiving 16 contracts from the City
SAN FRANCISCO (July 14, 2020) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced today that he has begun debarment proceedings to block AzulWorks, Inc. and its Chief Financial Officer and Vice President, Balmore Hernandez, from bidding on or being awarded contracts with the City and County of San Francisco for the next five years — the maximum amount of time allowed under the law.
AzulWorks and Hernandez were involved in an illegal bribery scheme with former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru that was detailed in federal criminal charges against Hernandez in a June 2020. Hernandez retains a presumption of innocence on the criminal charges. However, the City Attorney’s Office has independently confirmed that Hernandez and AzulWorks gave Nuru more than $20,000 in unlawful labor and material for construction work done at Nuru’s vacation home while working on at least 16 direct contracts from San Francisco, prompting the decision to move now to bar AzulWorks and Hernandez from receiving future City contracts.
“San Francisco and its residents do not need to sit idly by and wait for Hernandez’s criminal proceedings to play out,” Herrera said. “The people of San Francisco deserve clean contracting and a level playing field now. Contractors that cheat the system and break the law have no place doing business with San Francisco. And our investigation continues. We are following the facts wherever they lead and weeding out bad actors as we go. We won’t stop until we get to the bottom of this.”
Between 2017 and 2020 AzulWorks and Hernandez broke San Francisco law by giving thousands of dollars in unlawful gifts to then-Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, who oversaw the awarding of contracts at Public Works, which also handles construction projects for other City departments. During that time, AzulWorks received more than $20 million from 16 direct contracts with San Francisco, and more as a subcontractor on City projects.
According to the FBI complaint, Hernandez and AzulWorks provided Nuru with more than $250,000 in labor and materials for Nuru’s vacation home, including a $40,000 tractor, $10,000 worth of lumber and $10,000 of electrical work.
While Hernandez has not been convicted of the criminal charges at this time, he admitted to the FBI in an interview in January 2020 that he provided Nuru with $20,000 worth of personal gifts for Nuru’s vacation home, according to a federal affidavit. San Francisco has separately confirmed that Hernandez and AzulWorks paid for thousands of dollars of materials and labor to be used at Nuru’s vacation home.
Hernandez was actively breaking the law by intentionally giving large quantities of money to a contracting officer for that officer’s personal benefit, and it was unlawful for Nuru to accept any gift worth more than $25 from AzulWorks or Hernandez.
These gifts violated local laws that prohibit bribery and contract collusion, and violated AzulWorks’ contracts with San Francisco that obligated the company and Hernandez to comply with the San Francisco’s City Charter and laws.
Herrera on Monday, July 13, 2020, submitted a formal request to the Controller’s Office to ban Hernandez and AzulWorks from receiving any City contracts for five years. The Controller’s Office will appoint a hearing officer to oversee this administrative process, formally known as debarment. Additional documentation is available on the City Attorney’s website at: sfcityattorney.org.
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