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Monday, September 14, 2009

Backing Off Earlier Denial, S.F. Unified School District Now Says It's Unsure If It Employed Contractor Charged In Massive Fraud Scheme

Posted By on Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge Was Bob defrauded here in San Francisco?
  • Was Bob defrauded here in San Francisco?
Late last month, SF Weekly ran several stories about the purported San Francisco ties of NBC Contractors, a scandal-infested building firm charged with dozens of felonies in Alameda County.

The firm is charged with systematically forcing its Chinese electricians to work 12-hour days and six-day weeks while paying them below the city's minimum wage -- but reporting to government authorities that the men were paid prevailing wage and worked only part-time.

Depositions taken from allegedly defrauded workers by Oakland labor attorney Ellyn Moscowitz listed three San Francisco work sites: The Sanchez School, Mission Neighborhood Center, and Moscone Club House. Union officials at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 6 told SF Weekly that they had personally met with NBC workers building the Sanchez School who complained they were being defrauded (and mentioned this scam to then-Mayor Willie Brown, who is now the attorney for NBC boss Monica Ung). The San Francisco Unified School District, however, denied it had ever employed NBC. An e-mail from spokeswoman Heidi Anderson noted that "NBC has no business at Sanchez or any other SFUSD site."

After a public records request filed by SF Weekly, though, the district is changing its tune.

The district confirmed it did not hire NBC for work at Sanchez in either 2003 or 2006 -- but it is unsure if it did so earlier because a fire last year at SFUSD's contracts office destroyed many older files.

"It is impossible to determine if NBC General Contractor worked for us prior to 2003" reads the district's letter.

Officials at the IBEW, meanwhile, are adamant that SFUSD did indeed hire the troubled contractor earlier this decade. Local 6 head John O'Rourke told SF Weekly that Chinese workers he met with told him they were working 72-hour weeks for low wages at Sanchez School, but NBC was reporting they were earning the prevailing wage for 24-hour weeks. But the union boss says the workers were too intimidated to make their accusations publicly at that time: "They were afraid to come out of the shadows," he recalls.

Considering the files may have been burned, it is unclear at this time if the financial records for the Sanchez School job can be given the fine-toothed comb treatment that led to scores of felony charges being filed across the Bay by the Alameda County District Attorney.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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