Longtime permit expediter and city contractor Walter Wong has agreed to repay San Francisco more than $1.7 million in money earned through public contracts plus penalties after he pleaded guilty to federal charges tied to the FBI City Hall corruption probe, the City Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.
Wong will repay The City $1.45 million for contracts and grants he and his companies were awarded without a competitive process through his relationships with former Public Works head Mohammed Nuru and former general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Harlan Kelly, City Attorney Dennis Herrera said.
The contracts were for things like holiday lights or LED street lights and homeless shelter projects. Wong also agreed to pay $317,650 in penalties and late fees for ethics violations.
The settlement agreement requires approval by the Board of Supervisors. Wong’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Other terms in the agreement include a ban on Wong and any companies he’s affiliated with from seeking city contracts and a ban on his working as a permit expediter for five years. He also agreed “to continue cooperating” with the City Attorney’ s ongoing investigation into public corruption.
Kelly is also facing public corruption charges for allegedly accepting illegal gifts from Wong in exchange for city contracts.
Wong was charged by federal prosecutors with two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to engage in money laundering. In June, he agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with the FBI’s investigation
At that time, the City Attorney’s Office said they would seek to regain Wong’s “illegal profits.”
Wong was described by the City Attorney’s Office as the “connecting thread” in alleged misconduct among three department heads. The third was the Department of Building Inspection. Wong’s penalties in the settlement include allegations he illegally paid for meals for Nuru and former DBI head Tom Hui to influence city decisions on the 555 Fulton St. housing project.
Herrera said in a statement that “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,” Herrera said. “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.”