San Francisco, California – San Francisco City Administrator Naomi Kelly announced Wednesday that she is taking a leave of absence after her husband, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission General Manager Harlan Kelly, was charged by federal prosecutors with wire fraud on Monday.
Harlan Kelly’s charge is part of an ongoing federal investigation into city corruption, which has already netted several city officials suspected of accepting bribes in exchange for lucrative city contract bids.
Harlan Kelly has since stepped down from the position.
In a letter to staff, Naomi Kelly said she’d be taking a leave absence for the next six weeks to focus on her family, including her two young sons.
“My focus is on the important work of supporting my family at this time,” she said.
Deputy City Administrator Ken Bukowski will serve as acting city administrator while City Administrator Kelly is on leave.
In response to the announcement, Mayor London Breed said, “While Naomi has not been charged with any crimes, managing our COVID response while still delivering basic city services requires the full focus of all of our departments, including the city administrator’s office, which has been central to many of our efforts to mitigate the spread of this disease.”
Breed added, “As a city, we need to continue to work to address issues raised by this investigation and to implement necessary reforms in order to ensure the public’s trust in our city government.”
The city administrator is the city’s highest non-elected city official, overseeing 25 city departments, divisions and programs, including the Public Works Department, the County Clerk Office, the Medical Examiner’s Office and Animal Care and Control, among others.
Federal prosecutors allege Harlan Kelly, 58, was involved in a “long-running bribery scheme and corrupt partnership” with construction company executive Walter Wong in which Wong provided Kelly with cash, international vacations and meals, as Wong sought a multi-million-dollar contract for his company.
Prosecutors also said Wong, who has since pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, told federal investigators he paid for a 2016 trip to China for Harlan and Naomi Kelly and their family and gave them jewelry.
In exchange, Harlan Kelly allegedly provided Wong with confidential information and offered to delay the bidding process as Wong’s company drafted a contract proposal.
Harlan Kelly becomes one of several people charged under the FBI’s public corruption investigation, including former Recology group government and community relations manager Paul Fredrick Giusti and former Department of Public Works director Mohammed Nuru.
Harlan Kelly’s attorney Brian Getz has stressed his client’s innocence.