Findings released on San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection’s permitting and inspections processes

San Francisco, CA (September 16, 2021) — The Controller’s Office has released a preliminary assessment report on the internal processes at the Department of Building Inspection that allowed for multiple ethical breaches under the department’s former leadership, including improper preferential treatment and conflicts of interest. This report is the seventh in the series of public integrity reviews started in 2020 with the City Attorney’s Office after the former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru was criminally charged with a scheme to defraud the City and County of San Francisco by offering city resources in exchange for bribes. Among other charges, the complaint alleges that Mr. Nuru and former DBI Director Tom Hui accepted inappropriate gifts from property developer Li Zhang and permit expediter Walter Wong. Separate criminal charges were brought against Mr. Wong for conspiring with Mr. Nuru and other, unnamed city officials. Additionally, three others have been criminally charged with fraud related to their conduct at DBI.

The report published today focuses on the measures DBI, which oversees the enforcement of San Francisco’s building, housing, plumbing, electrical, and mechanical codes, can take to prevent nepotism, cronyism, and corruption. The findings and recommendations have been informed by a limited survey of San Francisco properties, including those with known irregularities in plan review or inspections.

 

Download the full report here.

View the press release.

 

Public Integrity Department of Building Inspection Infographic

 

What happens next?

Our review of inadequate policies and procedures that were exposed by the federal criminal charges against Mohammed Nuru and other city employees and contractors will continue, with future assessments on contracting at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and citywide ethics reporting. The need for additional assessments will be determined as the investigation progresses.

Tips

Investigators from the Controller’s Office consider every allegation of wrongdoing raised by city employees and members of the public. To report suspected public integrity abuses related specifically to the Mohammed Nuru investigation, please contact the Public Integrity Tip Line. You can provide information by:

All tips may be submitted anonymously and will remain confidential. Reports to this tip line, as well as tips to the Controller’s whistleblower hotline, are critical to the City’s ability to fight abuses and lapses of public integrity by city employees and contractors. As provided for by the San Francisco Charter, the Controller’s Whistleblower Program ensures complaints are investigated by departments with the appropriate jurisdiction and independence from the alleged wrongdoing.   

Information on city payments, searchable by department and vendor, are available on the Controller’s public transparency website at openbook.sfgov.org. Anyone may file any allegation of improper or illegal public activity with the City’s Whistleblower Program at sfcontroller.org/whistleblower-program. That program, administered by the Controller’s Office, often partners with the City Attorney’s Office on investigations.

For questions, please contact City Controller Ben Rosenfield at ben.rosenfield@sfgov.org.

For all press inquiries, please contact Communications Manager Alyssa Sewlal at alyssa.sewlal@sfgov.org.

 

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About the Office of the Controller

The Controller's Office works to ensure the City's financial integrity and to promote efficient, effective, and accountable government. We strive to be a model for good government and to make the City a better place to live and work. The Controller's Office is responsible for governance and conduct of key aspects of the City's financial operations, including operating the City's financial systems and issuing its financial procedures, maintaining the City's internal control environment, processing payroll for city employees, managing the City's bonds and debt portfolio, and processing and monitoring the City's budget. The department audits and produces regular reports on the City's financial and economic condition and the operations and performance of city government.