Nuru scandal: Feds charge second former Recology executive with bribery

A second former Recology executive is facing charges for allegedly bribing ex-Public Works head Mohammed Nuru with a $20,000 payment...

A second former Recology executive is facing charges for allegedly bribing ex-Public Works head Mohammed Nuru with a $20,000 payment that was disguised as a donation to a nonprofit for children.

John Porter, a former vice president for the trash company, is the 11th defendant charged in the ongoing public corruption scandal that has roiled City Hall since Nuru first was accused of fraud in January 2020.

Porter allegedly signed off on a $20,000 donation from Recology to the Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation for Kids in November 2018 as he sought to raise fees that the company charged The City for dumping materials, according to the newly unsealed complaint filed against him Tuesday. Authorities say the funds were used to pay for the annual Public Works holiday party instead of benefiting children.

Porter, 37, is now charged with the bribery of a local official and concealment of money laundering. He is due to appear in court next Tuesday. Attempts to locate an attorney for Porter were unsuccessful.

Authorities say Nuru arranged the donation with former Recology executive Paul Giusti, who has also been charged with bribery in connection with the same conduct. Recology then made out the check to the nonprofit for kids, which was run by another defendant in the scandal, restaurateur Nick Bovis.

The donation was just one part of a larger pattern of Recology directing over $1 million to benefit Nuru in an effort to “keep Mohammed happy,” according to the complaint.

As director of Public Works, Nuru played a key role in approving requests from Recology to raise the fees it charged San Francisco residents and companies for garbage collection.

It was during the approval process for one of those requests from 2017 that Recology underreported its revenues, resulting in San Franciscans being overcharged nearly $87 million in the years since.

The City Attorney’s Office has previously alleged that Recology’s cozy relationship with Nuru allowed the revenue error to go unchecked.

Porter was “deeply” involved in that process as a controller for Recology from 2015 to 2017, before being promoted to vice president, according to the complaint.

“FYI – Mohammed is the Director of the DPW who ultimately signs off on our rates,” Porter once in said in an internal email, according to the complaint. “Needless to say, keeping him happy is important.”

The San Francisco Examiner has previously reported that Porter appears to have discussed the revenue error with DPW officials as early as December 2018, but the issue was not corrected.

Recology has since agreed to repay San Franciscans for the overcharging, plus interest, and reduce its rates to settle a lawsuit over the issue brought by City Attorney Dennis Herrera last month.

The overcharging has prompted city officials to consider breaking up the monopoly Recology has on garbage collection in San Francisco.

Options include creating a municipal trash collection agency or allowing other businesses to compete for garbage service contracts by asking voters to undo a 1932 ordinance that gives Recology control of the industry.

In a statement, a Recology spokesperson said the company is implementing internal trainings and controls in response to the rate-making issue.

“Nothing matters more to us than our relationships with our customers, and we know we have a lot of work to do to regain their trust,” spokesperson Robert Reed said.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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