A former Recology executive was charged in a federal complaint Wednesday with bribery and money laundering in an alleged yearslong scheme to influence then-head of Public Works Mohammed Nuru to benefit the trash hauling company.
Paul Giusti, the former community relations manager for Recology, is the latest charged in the ongoing federal investigation of Nuru and San Francisco City Hall corruption.
Giusti, 64, allegedly provided Nuru with money and benefits worth over $1 million to influence his official decisions on matters including garbage rates and help boost Recology’s profits.
Among the allegations is that Giusti gave $20,000 to Nuru in November 2018 to increase “tipping fees” The City was charged to dispose of waste at a Recology facility.
The alleged bribe was made as a “holiday donation” from Recology to the Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation for Kids, a nonprofit headed by Nick Bovis. The money was used to pay for an annual holiday party Nuru organized for Public Works employees and other guests.
Nuru was first arrested alongside restaurateur Bovis in January for allegedly trying to bribe an airport commissioner to open up a restaurant at the San Francisco International Airport. Bovis has since pleaded guilty to two felony counts.
The $20,000 payment, the complaint alleged, was “part of a much larger pattern and course of conduct in which Giusti arranged for Recology to provide a stream of benefits to Nuru worth over $1 million, intending to influence and reward Nuru in connection with his role as Recology’s regulator.”
Recology discussed the importance of “keeping [Nuru] happy,” the complaint said.
“Mohammed is the Director of the DPW who ultimately signs off on our rates,” an unnamed “high level” Recology executive wrote in an email to a subordinate, the complaint said. “Needless to say, keeping him happy is important.”
It was Giusti who “was the person at Recology who was tasked with keeping Nuru happy,” the complaint said.
Giusti also allegedly arranged for Recology to contribute a total of $1 million between 2013 and 2019 in “purported donations” funneled through nonprofits to the Public Works anti-litter program known as Giant Sweep.
“Nuru then used the money as he saw fit—occasionally for DPW events which benefited taxpayers, but often for items which benefited Nuru in some way,” the complaint said.
Giusti was a decades-long employee with Recology and held his last position from 2012 until June 2020, according to the complaint. In his performance reviews he “was consistently praised for his close relationships with city officials and described as being ‘known to be the go to person for elected officials, and city staff alike.’”
In 2017, then-Mayor Ed Lee appointed him to serve on the Treasure Island Development Authority Board of Directors.
Giusti is also accused of helping Nuru’s son get a job at Recology and arranging for Recology to pay for the funeral costs of a Public Works employee disguised as a donation from a nonprofit.
Giusti could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson said the bribes were “laundered through nonprofit organizations to disguise their source and to create the false appearance of a legitimate charitable intent.”
“In return for these bribes, Nuru helped Recology obtain garbage fee increases approved by The City but paid by an unsuspecting public,” Anderson said. “As our investigation continues, each charge sheds new light on the ways and means of City Hall corruption.”
Recology said it ended Giusti’s employment in June, after its own investigation found he failed to live up to the company’s “ethical standards.”
“Recology has not been charged with any wrongdoing, and has continued to cooperate with all government investigations,” the company said in a statement.
Reacting to the latest revelations, Supervisor Matt Haney said, “It’s sad and it pisses me off.”
“There’s clearly a connection between the filth on our streets and corrupt behaviors that went far beyond Mr. Nuru,” Haney said. “This has gone on in our city for far too long.”
To bring increased oversight to Public Works, Haney succeeded in having voters approve Proposition B on Nov. 3. The measure splits up the department, creates a new department devoted entirely to street cleaning, and establishes oversight commissions.
Giusti is charged with one count of bribery and one count of money laundering and faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. He is expected to make an appearance in federal court on Nov. 23.
Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Dec. 1 on a six-year $62.5 million contract between The City and Recology to continue providing city departments and facilities with trash collection and recycling services. Recology has a monopoly on the trash hauling business in The City as a result of a 1932 law.