Formal Investigation Upends Local Favoritism ReportJanuary 18, 2022
Prompted by a two-part hit piece published by Mission Local, a formal investigation by the City Attorney’s Office into alleged favoritism by the Interim Director of San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection (DBI), Patrick O’Riordan, has found no evidence of favoritism by O’Riordan; determined that O’Riordan has “impartially enforced the building code at [all] the DBI projects reviewed by investigators;” and discovered that O’Riordan had actually attempted to implement reforms to combat departmental favoritism under past leadership but was thwarted at the time.
The City’s investigation did reveal, however, that Mission Local’s two sources, one current and another former DBI inspector, had “a basis for bias and animus against O’Riordan, who had previously disciplined both of the sources.” And in fact, allegations made by one of the sources directly contradicted statements the source had made in prior interviews with the City Attorney’s Office years ago.
From the Executive Summary of the full report:
In response to various public requests for an investigation by the City Attorney’s Office, the Public Integrity and Investigations Team…undertook a focused investigation into the allegations made in 2021 that Department of Building Inspection (“DBI”) Interim Director Patrick O’Riordan favored politically connected developers a decade ago, from 2009-2012, by not fully enforcing the Building Code at three construction projects (collectively, the “Projects”):
• 3418 26th Street (2012) (the “26th Street Project”),
• 2207 25th Street (2011) (the “25th Street Project”), and
• 700 Valencia Street (2009) (the “Valencia Street Project”).
At that time, O’Riordan was a Senior Inspector at DBI. Norman Gutierrez, a former DBI Inspector, and Christopher Schroeder, a current DBI Inspector, made the allegations [in a Mission Local report last year]. Specifically, they claimed that O’Riordan, their direct supervisor at the time of the Projects, inappropriately took over the inspections and stopped them from enforcing the Building Code because the Projects were associated with influential and politically connected builders. They suggest that O’Riordan used “kid gloves” on these Projects to unfairly favor the project sponsors.
As described in more detail in Section III [of the full report] we found no credible evidence that O’Riordan participated in selective enforcement or preferential treatment in connection with the Projects. We reviewed the permit histories for the Projects, and interviewed many participants, including other building inspectors at DBI, as well as O’Riordan and Schroeder (Gutierrez declined to be interviewed by our investigators). All evidence that we found – excluding the allegations of Gutierrez and Schroeder – demonstrates that O’Riordan’s conduct related to the Projects was appropriate and consistent with DBI enforcement standards and its Code of Conduct.
We also concluded that Gutierrez’s and Schroeder’s allegations were not credible in light of the permit history for the Projects and other evidence that we gathered through our investigation. Both sources refused to speak voluntarily with this Office about their allegations to the media. We found that both Gutierrez and Schroeder have a basis for bias and animus against O’Riordan, because he previously disciplined each of them – Gutierrez in 2013 and Schroeder less than a year ago in April 2021. Further, Schroeder gave evidence in 2014 as part of the Office’s investigation into a Mel Murphy project at 125 Crown Terrace…and at that time Schroeder told our Office that he was not familiar with the 26th Street Project. That prior evidence directly contradicts his current allegations, made more than seven years later and after O’Riordan disciplined him in April 2021. All these considerations undercut Gutierrez’s and Schroeder’s credibility and the validity of their allegations against O’Riordan.
Besides not finding O’Riordan engaged in wrongdoing at the Projects, nor did we find other evidence that O’Riordan selectively enforced the Building Code or provided preferential treatment at other DBI projects that we have reviewed either as part of our joint public integrity investigation with the Controller or in past code enforcement projects that our Office has handled. The only allegations of any preferential treatment or impropriety against O’Riordan that we identified come from Gutierrez and Schroeder, whom our investigation found not credible.
That being said, while the City’s formal investigation found no legitimate basis to implicate O’Riordan in any wrongdoing, there was “ample evidence…of favoritism and selective enforcement for politically connected individuals, and outright corruption by some DBI employees” under former leadership, including former DBI Director Tom Hui, and “top city leadership” was not only aware of the favoritism that had occurred under Hui’s leadership and failed to hold Hui accountable but “rewarded Hui for favoring former Mayor Lee’s political supporters.”
And in fact, rather than being complicit, O’Riordan is actually on record with the City Attorney’s Office for having proactively shared his suspicions and concerns that Hui was directing others at the DBI to provide preferential treatment to politically connected individuals back in 2019, including specific concerns about former Senior Inspector Bernie Curran who has since been charged with fraud.
UPDATE (1/25): Patrick O’Riordan has just been named the (no longer Interim) Director of the Department of Building Inspection (DBI).
Comments from Plugged-In Readers
Great to finally see some pushback against Joe and his brand of yellow journalism.
Truth be told, the DBI (and City gov beyond) have set the stage for it. Wrong on O’Riordan? Possibly – does that wholesale invalidate everything else that’s been posted on Mission Local? Don’t think so.
Not “Possibly”, definitively. They couldn’t have been more wrong.
I don’t think it invalidates everything else that’s been posted on Mission Local either, but it does make me question their standards and what would happen if their other reports were investigated to the same degree.
Mission Local is as politically biased as Fox News. They’re an unabashed mouthpiece for MEDA, Calle 24, and about any other far left organization that touches them.
This claim is ridiculous. Mission Local has been notably antagonistic toward those power players.
Joe Eskanazi at Mission Local is hands down the best journalist in the city. Nobody else comes close to turning over the stones that he does. I’m so happy to see how work is resulting in investigations and being mentioned on other publications like this one.
I concur that Joe is an excellent journalist — and certainly not in the pocket of the MEDA/Calle 24 crowd (as sfaptbroker claims) — but Heather Knight, JK Dineen, Kevin Fagan, and Mary Reynolds are every bit as excellent as well.
Who wrote the debunked O’Riordan series?
For his part, Joe is sticking to his story.
In short, Willie Brown remains mayor of SF.
In related news, Patrick O’Riordan has just been named the (no longer Interim) Director of the Department of Building Inspection (DBI).
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