SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – San Francisco Mayor London Breed released a statement Friday addressing a personal relationship to former Public Works director Mohammed Nuru, who was arrested last month on public corruption charges.
In the statement, Breed said she dated Nuru two decades ago and after their relationship ended, they remained close friends.
Nuru was arrested along with Nick Bovis, the owner of a popular Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant Lefty O’Douls, and both were charged with honest services wire fraud.
The suspects’ charges stem from a series of five schemes, which includes an allegation that they bribed an SFO commissioner in exchange for help in securing Bovis’ bid for an airport restaurant lease.
Breed said when she learned of the allegations against her “close friend” Nuru, she was confused, heartbroken, and shocked.
She also stressed in her statement that she “never asked Mohammed Nuru to do anything improper, and he never asked me to do anything improper.”
You can read the statement in full below:
Transparency and Accountability
I write this in the spirit of transparency, because in the wake of a scandal at City Hall, I think San Franciscans are entitled to hear directly from their Mayor. And also, quite frankly, to dispel some unfortunate rumors that have already begun to circulate.
Mohammed Nuru and I have been close personal friends for more than 20 years. We dated for a brief time, two decades ago, long before I ever ran for office. Nevertheless, he, and his now-adult daughters, have remained close friends for all those years.
And so it was with a profound sense of shock, sadness, disappointment and anger that I learned of the federal charges against Mohammed announced two weeks ago.
From the perspective of serving as your Mayor, I was furious. The allegations against Mohammed and his co-defendants, if proved, represent a betrayal of the public trust that cuts to the core of our mission, and our duty, as public servants. This could weigh down the hardworking women and men of not only the Public Works Department, but the City workforce as a whole. We endeavor to earn the public trust, work hard and achieve results for our City, but scandals like this one cut away at the public’s faith in our departments.
From the perspective of a close personal friend, I was confused and heartbroken. If the charges are true, I can only wonder how could someone give up so much, for seemingly so little, endanger one’s hard-earned reputation and livelihood, and upend the lives of family, friends, colleagues and the citizens he served?
It was, and remains, shocking.
To be clear: I never asked Mohammed Nuru to do anything improper, and he never asked me to do anything improper. I was not aware of the schemes alleged by the FBI until shortly before they became public, and when I was informed, I immediately reported the information to our City Attorney.
When he was arrested, Mohammed was placed on leave by his supervisor. I immediately called for the City Attorney and Controller to conduct an independent investigation into the charges and the impacted departments, and issued an Executive Directive calling on City employees to be transparent and prioritize cooperation with the investigation.
Shortly after he was arrested, some local officials and many in the public called for his immediate firing. While I understand that call, it’s imperative that we respect all the laws and procedures pertaining to a public employee’s termination. Before this process had been completed, however, he submitted his resignation.
Now, we will all have to let the justice system take its course.
For my part, I will do my job — which includes supporting the independent investigation under way by the City Attorney and the Controller. The City Attorney is an independently elected official; the Controller operates independently of the Mayor’s Office. Whatever comes of the federal case, I am confident our City Attorney and Controller will uncover any improper actions that were taken and recommend reforms to ensure they never happen again. Once we have recommendations and analysis completed by these two independent offices, I will join my fellow elected officials to implement any reforms necessary to restore the public trust.
As I said, I’ve known Mohammed for more than 20 years, and as with so many others in our City government, I’ve been both a friend and a colleague. This situation has forced so many of us to examine our relationship.
And in the spirit of my directive to city employees to be as transparent as possible, I want to note that in my annual “Statement of Economic Interests,” due this coming April 1, I will voluntarily disclose a “gift” of approximately $5,600 from Mohammed Nuru.
Last year, my personal automobile had broken down and Mohammed, acting as my friend, took it to a private auto mechanic. The estimated cost of repairs seemed more than the 18-year-old car was worth, but Mohammed had it fixed. Later, when the car still wasn’t working, he helped secure a rental. The estimated value of those things is about $5,600. It had been my intention to sell the car (which is still not running consistently, even after the repairs) and reimburse Mohammed.
Now, gifts provided “by an individual with whom the official has a long term, close personal friendship unrelated to the official’s position” are not required to be reported under the Fair Political Practices Commission’s rules. But since I have not yet been able to sell the car — and given all that has now happened — I have chosen to make this voluntary disclosure.
I realize that my close friendship to someone accused of something so serious will undoubtedly affect my life, and maybe even my life’s work. It has happened before, with friends and loved ones and members of my broader community.
It is part of the reason this hurts so much; I have striven my entire life to rise above the negative stereotypes and harmful expectations cast upon myself and those around me, to perform a public service, and to earn the public’s trust.
I will not apologize for dating someone two decades ago. I will not apologize for remaining close friends with him and his family for 20 more years.
But neither will I make excuses for any misdeeds. He will have to live with any consequences, and we in government must work to ensure our institutions live up to the highest levels of integrity.
I have no doubt that some will seek to exploit what I have shared here, to harm me politically. I, and others, may be weighed down from guilt by association as a result of this episode.
But I can’t worry about that now. What’s important is that we all hold ourselves accountable to the people of San Francisco, and do our jobs to the best of our abilities, honestly and faithfully, as our oath requires.
We must continue to support the hard-working employees at our Public Works Department, who are out there every day cleaning our streets and striving to improve our City. Finally, we must take this opportunity to make necessary reforms to strengthen accountability in our departments and restore the public trust.
Nuru was also arrested with Nick Bovis, the 56-year-old owner of Lefty O’ Doul’s, a popular sports bar in Fisherman’s Wharf.
Both have been charged with honest services wire fraud in connection with an alleged scheme to bribe a San Francisco Airport Commissioner, according to the United States Attorney David L. Anderson.
If they are convicted, the two could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
According to the complaint, Nuru and Bovis engaged in a scheme to bribe an unnamed San Francisco Airport Commissioner with cash and free travel in exchange for the commissioner’s assistance to win a bid for the right to run a restaurant in the San Francisco International Airport.
In total, the complaint alleges five schemes: an airport scheme, a building development project scheme, a Transbay transit scheme, a homeless shelter and public restroom scheme and a Stonyford vacation home scheme.
The DA alleged that Nuru used his official position to benefit a billionaire in China who was developing a large multimillion-dollar mixed-use project in San Francisco, in exchange for travel and lodging, high-end liquor, and other gifts and benefits.
Another scheme involves Nuru attempting to use his position as the chair of the TJPA to secure a desirable lease for Bovis in the Transbay Transit Center, in exchange for benefits provided by Bovis.
Nuru is also accused of providing Bovis with inside information on city projects regarding portable bathroom trailers and small container-like housing units for use by the homeless so that Bovis could win contracts for those projects.
The fifth alleged scheme involves Nuru obtaining free and discounted labor and construction equipment from contractors to help him build a personal vacation home in Colusa County, California, while those contractors were also engaging in business with the City.
Nuru has been the top official in charge of the $312 million city public works budget since 2012. He is tasked with cleaning up San Francisco streets, which critics note remain cluttered with feces, trash and used needles amid a homelessness crisis.
Nuru was first appointed to the department as deputy director under then-director Ed Lee, who later became mayor.
Nuru, who goes by “MrCleanSF” on Twitter, also oversees the design and construction of city facilities and 1,600 employees. It’s capital project portfolio is more than $5.6 billion
Nuru was initially taken into custody on January 21 but was released to FBI custody after agreeing to cooperate with their investigation. He agreed to not disclose information on the investigation, however, he falsely claimed that he abided by the condition of release which resulted in a new arrest.
Nuru was released on a $2 million bond.