Report slams environmental official for ‘lax tone’ on ethics


According to a new report released Friday, the city’s top environmental official imbued her department with a ‘lax tone’ toward ethics, which led to numerous violations of city policy by her. itself and its employees.

Among the many ethical shortcomings outlined in a review by the City Comptroller and City Attorney, former Environment Department director Debbie Raphael asked Recology executives for donations as the waste management company negotiated settlements. contracts with the city.

Raphael resigned as director of the environment ministry on Thursday, a day before the report was published.

She is one of several senior civil servants to have walked out of City Hall since 2020, when revelations about former Public Works Department chief Mohammed Nuru’s ‘pay to play’ tactics sparked an investigation. insight into corruption at the highest levels of government in San Francisco.

The mayor of London Breed announced Raphael’s interim replacement on Thursday – San Francisco Public Utilities Commission deputy deputy chief executive Tyrone Jue – but did not explain the charges that led to Raphael’s departure.

The report released Friday details the thin, porous line that separates Recology, a private company, from the Department of the Environment, which plays a direct role in setting the rates that San Francisco customers pay Recology for waste collection.

It also shows how SF Environment officials appealed to Recology for donations to support its initiatives, and how that money was protected from public scrutiny by hiding it with the Friends of SF Environment.

Here are some key takeaways from the report…

Friends of SF Environment

Friends of SF Environment is apparently a separate nonprofit from the city, but Department of Environment employees have signing authority to disburse funds for the former.

These close ties have allowed department employees to solicit donations to the Friends organization and then use those funds for such things as departmental events.

The Ministry has solicited a donation of $25,000 from Recology

In 2015, Raphaël solicited – and later received – a $25,000 donation from Recology. (The giveaway was first reported by the San Francisco Standard earlier this week). The move raised red flags for investigators because, at the same time, Recology was working to secure a major contract to transport the city’s waste to its landfill.

Unlike other giveaways, the department did not disclose the giveaway – intended to support an Earth Day event – on its website, as it was actually for the nonprofit Friends.

The emails demonstrate that the gift was, as far as Recology is concerned, a bargain.

In an email to Raphael, a Recology executive said the giveaway was a “business development opportunity.”

Documents withheld by senior management

The comptroller’s office and the city attorney also accused the department of doing everything it could to withhold information about the $25,000 gift.

“Only after being pressed for complete documentation did the department provide documentation related to the $25,000 donation to Friends of SF Environment,” the report said.

A lack of ethical training

According to the report, only senior department officials received ethics training before 2021, and lower-level employees were unaware that accepting non-cash gifts and meals from Recology was a code violation. from the city.

Recology Helps Hire SF Environment Employees

Recology not only built close relationships with department employees, it helped hire them.

“Based on information provided by SF Environment and the Department of Human Resources, two Recology employees have been involved in at least six hires over the past five years for positions ranging from assistant to senior coordinator,” the report said. . “Most of these positions require some interaction with Recology and could contribute to Recology’s contractual oversight.”


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