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Report states that SF Environment employees repeatedly broke ethics rules.

Report states that SF Environment employees repeatedly broke ethics rules.

Friday’s San Francisco Controllers Office report stated that the San Francisco Department of the Environment employees, including its director knowingly violated ethical rules in its most recent report on its investigation into the City Hall corruption scam.

The Controllers Office found that SF Environment employees were in violation of ethics rules. Recology employees solicited donations and accepted them before they signed contracts with the waste management company.

According to the Controllers report, the department also failed to disclose donations as part of the city’s investigation.

Debbie Raphael, director of SF Environment, resigned just one day before the report was published.

Although not all transactions were illegal the Controllers Office stated they undermined public trust because it appeared that city officials could be bribed for favoritism.

The report stated that regardless of whether these acts influenced contract award decisions they undermine public trust in those decisions.

According to the report, Raphael solicited donations for Recology between 2015 and 2019, at the time of contract negotiations with the company.

Raphael also noted that he had completed ethics training throughout this period and should have sought advice at the City Attorneys Office prior to accepting donations.

Recology also donated $25,000 to SF Environment for 2015’s Earth Day event through Friends of SF Environment. This event raises money for the city but does not follow the same disclosure rules. It is unclear if the department was required by law to disclose the donation.

Most donations to Earth Day were made through a city gift fund. This information is available on the department’s website. The Board of Supervisors had to approve any donations exceeding $10,000. The report stated that SF Environment did neither disclose nor obtain approval for the $25,000 donation. It also said that not all of the money had been spent.

During the city’s investigation into corruption, the department withheld information regarding this donation for over a year and half following the 2020 arrest of Mohammed Nuru (ex-director of Public Works). The department narrowly interpreted the document request based on what they claimed was a literal reading. They only provided information about donations through Friends of SF Environment when asked directly.

Also, the department officials did not disclose to investigators that they received and returned a $6,400 check from Recology in mid 2020 after Nurus’ arrest.

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Recology also accepted gifts and meals from SF Environment employees, according to the report. This was even though the department was involved with setting refuse collection and disposal rates in violation of City law. Even though not all employees were trained in ethics, the report does not absolve them from any responsibility for violations.

We conclude that (the issues) are the result of a long-standing poor ethics climate, poor management decision-making, as well as a weak tone coming from the top regarding the importance and importance of city ethics laws, the report said.

Danielle Echeverria, a San Francisco Chronicle staff reporter, is Danielle Echeverria. Email: Twitter: @DanielleEchev

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