Former Recology employee John Porter has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire and mail fraud, making him the second person to do so from the company.
Porter, who was vice president and manager of Recology’s San Francisco group until January 2021, admitted to paying more than $55,000 in bribes to then-San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru in exchange for favorable treatment related to contracts and rate increases.
Last year, Nuru was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for honest services wire fraud.
During a court appearance Tuesday, Porter admitted to approving the payments for holiday parties that Nuru hosted for “friends, political supporters and select [Department of Public Works] employees” between October 2017 and January 2020, according to the plea deal read in court. The payments were passed off as “holiday donations” to the Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation for Kids. Additional payments included a $1,182 dinner for Nuru at a steakhouse.
Porter’s plea deal is part of a larger corruption scandal involving Recology and numerous San Francisco government officials, nonprofits and contractors. Paul Giusti, Recology’s former government and community relations manager for the San Francisco group, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to bribe a local official and commit honest services fraud in August 2021. He has been cooperating with the federal investigation and is due back in court for a status hearing later this month.
Porter was weeks away from standing trial for his alleged involvement, with multiple current and former Recology employees on the list of potential witnesses.
He was originally charged with bribery in 2021 in connection with the corruption scandal. In November, a superseding indictment updated his charges with additional counts of wire and mail fraud. In a December response, Porter’s attorneys pushed back on these claims and said the original approval of these holiday donations happened before he was promoted to the group manager role.
“In 2017 the request was forwarded to Mr. Porter because the person who was responsible at that time for approval, Mark Arsenault, was out of the office. Mr. Porter refused to approve the payment unless instructed to by Mr. Arsenault. Mr. Arsenault talked with Mr. Porter and explained that it was an appropriate expense and that it should be approved,” said the filing.
Arsenault later became Recology’s chief operating officer and stepped down in July 2020. Arsenault has not been charged for any alleged involvement in the case.
Porter pleaded guilty only to conspiracy to commit honest services wire and mail fraud, but the additional counts could be dismissed during his sentencing on September 7. He could face a maximum 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, District Judge William Orrick said during the court appearance.
Recology’s San Francisco companies accepted one charge of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud in a 2021 deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and agreed to pay a $36 million fine. That charge will be dropped within three years pending certain conditions. The company also agreed to more than $100 million worth of ratepayer reimbursements through multiple settlements — including one last November — and eventually supported a ballot measure to update San Francisco’s rate-setting process.