City Administrator Carmen Chu responds to independent review of the Community Challenge Grant Program, following charges of misconduct against the former program director

The City Administrator’s Office will begin a new review of the 2023 Community Challenge Grant cycle to ensure a fair and transparent process.
October 17, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Today, City Administrator Carmen Chu responds to the Public Integrity Review of the City’s Community Challenge Grant Program (CCG).  

Following misconduct charges filed against the former CCG program director this August, the City Administrator took immediate action to initiate an independent review of the program’s grantmaking process and, in partnership with the City Attorney, to suspend contracts with implicated entities. 

A report released today by the Controller and City Attorney’s Office outlines findings and recommendations from their review of CCG’s 2023 grant cycle. The City Administrator’s Office concurs with their findings and will begin implementing recommendations to strengthen the program. 

“Transparency and fairness in our City processes are critical, and the results of the independent review have brought to light that the former program director misrepresented essential parts of the evaluation and scoring process.” said City Administrator Carmen Chu. “I want to thank Controller Rosenfield, City Attorney Chiu, and their teams for their prioritization of this review. Their findings provide clear direction for immediate next steps and create a strong foundation to strengthen policies and controls for the CCG program. I also want to thank our 2023 applicants for their patience. We are working expeditiously to let applicants know what to expect for the re-evaluation of their proposals and, with our new program manager, get this important community program back on track.”   

Controller Ben Rosenfield said, “I appreciate the City Administrator’s actions taken following recent charges brought by the District Attorney.  This review, conducted with our colleagues in the City Attorney’s Office, uncovered additional inappropriate manipulation of recent grant making processes.  I’m confident that City Administrator Chu and her team will work to quickly implement the tighter controls we’ve recommended to ensure fair and transparent competitive processes for this program going forward.”  

“The City will not tolerate corrupt actors trying to undermine our grantmaking processes at the expense of taxpayers,” said City Attorney David Chiu. “This review concludes that the Community Challenge Grant Program’s 2023 cycle was compromised. I appreciate our partnership with the Controller and the actions taken by the City Administrator to rectify this situation. Together, we will work to ensure the Community Challenge Grant Program lives up to the goals and standards voters had in mind when they created this program decades ago.” 

The City Administrator’s Office is now working with organizations who applied in the 2023 grant cycle to carry out an evaluation of their applications with a new scoring panel and additional controls in place.  

On August 29, the District Attorney filed criminal charges against the former CCG program Director, Lanita Henriquez, and City contractor Dwayne Jones, founder and president of RDJ Enterprises. The charges accuse Jones of bribing Henriquez to steer City grants and contracts to RDJ Enterprises and other entities that Jones controls.  

Immediately following the District Attorney’s charges, City Administrator Carmen Chu, City Attorney David Chiu, and Controller Ben Rosenfield announced actions to begin restoring accountability to the Community Challenge Grant Program. The City Administrator placed Henriquez on leave and requested the Controller and City Attorney to conduct a Public Integrity Review of CCG’s grantmaking procedures. The City Administrator and City Attorney suspended Jones and his affiliated entities from bidding on or receiving City contracts or grants. The suspension order, filed on September 7, became effective immediately. The City intends to seek debarment, an administrative enforcement procedure to ban contractors from City contracts or grants for up to five years, after criminal proceedings conclude. 

This year, the City Administrator’s Office launched a series of projects to improve transparency and accountability across all its programs. In February, the department initiated an internal effort with the City Attorney’s Office to refresh and draft an update to FPPC Form 700 filing requirements for City Administrator’s Office staff. The department plans to submit legislative amendments to the Board of Supervisors for their consideration later this month. In May, for the first time, the department made ethics training a requirement for all staff, not just Department Heads, Deputy Directors, and employees involved in contracting and purchasing. In July, the department began a multi-division review of disclosure and conflicts-of-interest practices connected to grantmaking and contracting functions within the office. That review will result in a department-wide policy, expected to roll out this fall, for identifying and avoiding conflicts of interest. The policy will include clear disclosure processes for individuals involved in public grantmaking functions and the creation of new tools for implementation.      


About Public Integrity Reviews 

The Controller and City Attorney have issued ten previous Public Integrity Reports to assess and make recommendations on a range of topics. Many of these recommendations have been implemented to improve city systems, policies, procedures, internal controls, and transparency. For example, previous Public Integrity Reviews led to legislation, passed by the Board of Supervisors and signed by Mayor Breed, that significantly reformed the City’s grantmaking process. Now codified in Administrative Code Chapter 21G, the legislation regulates the process for awarding grants to ensure it is fair and transparent. 

About the Community Challenge Grant Program (CCG) 

The Community Challenge Grant Program, a division of the City Administrator’s Office, was established by voters in 1990 to support physical improvements and greening of public spaces. The program provides community groups, community benefit associations, schools, businesses, and nonprofits with funding and technical assistance to design and implement projects to beautify their neighborhoods. Since its founding, the program has partnered with hundreds of local organizations create and improve community spaces across the City.