San Francisco City Administrator Resigns Amid Corruption Probe

City Administrator Naomi Kelly is San Francisco’s highest ranking unelected official and the fourth department head to step down since a sprawling federal probe into City Hall corruption was revealed nearly one year ago.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Less than two months after her husband, a former city department head, was arrested on federal bribery charges and forced to resign, San Francisco’s highest-ranking unelected official announced Tuesday that she, too, will step down.

City Administrator Naomi Kelly, who oversees 25 departments and divisions that employ 2,700 city workers, will leave her $329,000-per-year job on Feb. 1, she wrote in a letter to the mayor Tuesday.

San Francisco City Administrator Naomi Kelly. (Image courtesy of the City and County of San Francisco via Courthouse News)

“In light of recent public allegations, based on the false statements of an admitted liar, I must step aside to focus on my family and to allow the City Administrator’s Office to function without distraction,” Kelly wrote.

Kelly was likely referring to Walter Wong, a contractor and permit expediter who told federal agents as part of a plea agreement that Kelly’s husband, former San Francisco Public Utilities chief Harlan Kelly, exchanged government favors for cash and gifts.

Prosecutors say Wong covered Harlan Kelly’s full or partial expenses for multiple international trips, including a March 2016 family trip to Hong Kong and China, which his wife attended. During that trip, prosecutors say Wong covered Kelly’s hotel stays, meals, jewelry purchases and later reimbursed him for airfare with cash.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed in November, Harlan Kelly used his position to give Wong’s son’s company an edge in obtaining a multimillion-dollar contract for streetlight upgrades, though the bid was eventually withdrawn due to contract changes.

Wong also did $23,236 worth of water damage repair work on Kelly’s personal residence, but Kelly only paid $11,547 for the work — the maximum his insurance company would pay, according to prosecutors.

Last month, Harlan Kelly was ordered to undergo drug testing as a condition of his release on $200,000 bond after prosecutors said authorities found a substance that appeared to be cocaine in his home, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. 

After her husband’s arrest, Noami Kelly announced in December she would take a six-week leave of absence to focus on her family.

Kelly has served as city administrator since 2012 when she was appointed by then-Mayor Ed Lee.

She is the fourth department head to step down since a sprawling city corruption scandal was unveiled by federal prosecutors nearly a year ago. Other outgoing department heads include Kelly’s husband, who headed the city’s utilities commission, former Building Inspection Director Tom Hui and former Public Works Director Mohammad Nuru.

Nuru was the first city official to face charges in the ever-expanding bribery scandal. He was arrested in January 2020 and accused of trying to bribe a San Francisco Airport commissioner and lying to FBI. He faces up to 25 years in prison.

In all, ten people have been arrested for charges related to the corruption probe. Other defendants include contractors Alan Varela, Bill Gilmartin, Balmore Hernandez and Florence King, all of whom are accused of bribing Nuru in exchange for lucrative city contracts.

Restauranter Nick Bovis, accused of scheming with Nuru in attempting to bribe an airport official and getting Nuru’s help to secure city contracts, agreed to plead guilty in May. 

Nuru’s longtime romantic partner Sandra Zuniga, the city’s former fix-it director and director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, also faces charges for allegedly helping Nuru launder money.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening.

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