Kick­back scheme: For­mer Vallejo pub­lic works man­ager gets prison term for tak­ing bribes

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - BAY AREA - By An­nie Ma An­nie Ma is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer. Email: ama@sfchron­i­cle.com Twit­ter: @an­niema15

A for­mer land­scape man­ager for Vallejo was sen­tenced to a year in prison and fined $10,000 for or­ches­trat­ing a scheme to so­licit thou­sands of dol­lars in bribes from city con­trac­tors seek­ing fed­eral com­mu­nity block grant funds, pros­e­cu­tors said Tues­day.

Don­ald Burton, 51, who pleaded guilty to the charges on Aug. 1, was sen­tenced in fed­eral court in Sacramento.

“When pub­lic of­fi­cials take bribes, they put their greed ahead of the in­ter­ests of the peo­ple they serve,” said Sean Re­gan, spe­cial agent in charge of the FBI Sacramento Field Of­fice. “With the help of pri­vate cit­i­zens who take a stand against cor­rupt be­hav­ior, the FBI will con­tinue to pro­tect the in­tegrity of gov­ern­ment at all lev­els.”

Burton was em­ployed as a land­scape man­ager in the Pub­lic Works En­gi­neer­ing Di­vi­sion of the city of Vallejo, of­fi­cials said. His role re­quired reg­u­larly con­tract­ing lo­cal land­scap­ing com­pa­nies for projects in Vallejo.

In one project, Burton sought a 10 per­cent kick­back from the owner of a main­te­nance com­pany in ex­change for di­rect­ing con­tracts to that com­pany. The owner tipped off the FBI, which opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Vallejo re­ceives sub­stan­tial fed­eral fund­ing — more than $500,000 in Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Block Grants went to the city from the U.S. De­part­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment, of­fi­cials said.

The block grants are given to lo­cal gov­ern­ments to fi­nance in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ment pro­grams such as parks, play­grounds and land­scap­ing. The grants must be used in a way that pre­dom­i­nantly ben­e­fits low- and mod­er­ate-in­come peo­ple, with the goal of com­bat­ting poverty and ur­ban blight.

In an un­der­cover op­er­a­tion, the busi­ness owner who tipped off the FBI met with Burton to work out fur­ther con­tract de­tails. In those meet­ings, Burton told the busi­ness owner to stretch 10-day jobs into 15 days so the two could di­vide the profit.

The ex­cess amount added up to $5,000 per job, pros­e­cu­tors said, with Burton agree­ing to take $2,000. Burton was ar­rested on June 7 af­ter he met the busi­ness owner and took the $2,000 bribe pay­ment.

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