Corruption probe. San Francisco Mayor wants Building Inspection Chief fired

San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection (DBI) has for years been considered a department where relationships go a long way in getting permits approved.

Now the Mayor is calling for the ouster of the Director, Tom Hui. He has become enmeshed in the Federal and local probe involving City Hall.

Director Hui is just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is with the entrenched civil service building inspectors who run DBI. If San Francisco is really serious about getting to the root of the systemic problem a thorough house cleaning of Building Inspection management is in order.

Ousting Director Hui will make for good press but the barnacle like influence the building inspectors wield will continue unabated.

Excerpted from San Francisco Chronicle 3.10.2020

San Francisco Mayor London Breed is urging that Tom Hui, the chief of the city’s Department of Building Inspection, be removed after the city attorney’s office alleged Hui abused his official position. The city attorney’s allegations came out of an investigation into corruption launched after the arrest of former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru.

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Breed sent a letter to the president of the Building Inspection Commission, Angus McCarthy, on Tuesday, recommending the commission remove Hui. Only the commission has the power to fire the building inspection director, though the mayor appoints four of the commission’s seven members. The Board of Supervisors appoints the other three.

“While this recommendation is pending, I have placed Mr. Hui on paid administrative leave from his position,” Breed wrote in the letter, which was reviewed by The Chronicle.

Hui’s annual city compensation, including salary and benefits, is $347,662. Hui, who joined Building Inspection in 1996, has been its director since 2013.

The department’s budget for the current fiscal year is $96.5 million, enough to fund around 269 full-time employees.

The city attorney’s office opened an investigation into corruption within city government following Nuru’s arrest on fraud charges in late January. The investigation has already yielded a flurry of subpoenas to construction firms, nonprofits and individuals suspected of playing roles in corruption schemes.

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San Francisco City Attorney – Dennis Herrera

The city attorney’s office presented Breed with a lengthy memo Tuesday revealing the evidence they found tied to Hui. The memo, which was also reviewed by The Chronicle, indicated that Hui was initially cooperative with the investigation last month, but has since retained a criminal defense attorney. Whether he would continue to participate in the investigation was unclear, the memo said.

Breed’s letter to the Building Inspection Commission lays out that the investigation uncovered evidence that Hui “provided intentional preferential treatment and access to Walter Wong, a permit expediter who regularly conducts business with DBI.

The city attorney’s memo also indicates that Hui and Wong corresponded for years on a variety of topics, including Building Inspection Department policy, suggesting a close relationship between the two men.