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Former San Francisco building inspector pleads guilty to accepting illegal payments

Former Department of Building Inspection senior inspector Bernie Curran presents at a Building Inspection Commission meeting on Oct. 21, 2015. | SFGovTV

A former San Francisco building inspector pleaded guilty Friday for accepting gratuity payments as rewards for approving building permits, federal prosecutors said.

Bernard Curran, 62, is the latest person to be convicted as part of a probe into corruption within San Francisco city departments and is set to be sentenced on March 31, 2023.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Curran was a senior inspector at the city’s Department of Building Inspection, where he worked from 2005 until he resigned in May 2021. The department conducts inspections of and issues permits for construction or remodeling projects, and Curran was accused of accepting illegal payments from two people related to those duties.

The first payment was from a real estate developer who Curran knew since the 1990s and had inspected dozens of the developer’s properties over the years. In March 2017, Curran accepted $260,000 from the developer to assist in paying down Curran’s residential mortgage and paid most of it back, but the developer never required him to pay the remaining $30,000 balance, prosecutors said.

The second illegal payment was from an engineer who arranged for clients to make charitable donations to the athletic organization where Curran was a volunteer coach and supporter in connection with inspections by Curran of the clients’ properties. The organization received 13 checks totaling $9,600 between May 2017 through April 2019 that Curran admitted were not permitted, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Each of the two charges carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

In the San Francisco City Hall corruption probe, so far 12 people have been charged, including former Public Works director Mohammed Nuru, who was sentenced earlier this year to seven years in prison, prosecutors said.

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