Highest-paid mayor in U.S. — who has cop-driven car for personal use — acknowledges $5,600 ‘gift’ from Mohammed Nuru for auto repairs, rental.


Well, happy Valentine’s Day.

Hope yours is going well. London Breed, however, is having a suboptimal day. Our mayor, who made the Nob Hill Gazette’s list of “A-List Eligibles,” today penned a Medium post disclosing a long-ago romantic relationship with ex-Public Works boss Mohammed Nuru, who was in January arrested on federal fraud charges. He faces up to 25 years in prison.

This is manna from clickbait heaven and juicy red meat for all of the media outlets and news consumers enthralled by this city’s filth and dysfunction. The dude in charge of cleaning San Francisco’s filthy, filthy streets not only got popped by the feds for corruption, he also dated the mayor. Needles! Feces! Money! Sex! Film at 11.

But you know what? Mayor London Breed is 44. She is a grown woman. Who she dated in her mid-20s is not news, or it shouldn’t be.

Breed’s past relationship with Nuru was, to boot, a poorly kept secret. Many people knew, and it was acknowledged if you asked. But decades-old relationships aren’t relevant until they factor into favoritism or on-the-job performance. It’s not at all clear that’s happened here: Mohammed Nuru comported himself the way he did under Mayors Willie Brown, Gavin Newsom, Ed Lee, and Mark Farrell before London Breed took office. There are so many problems with that, but a past romantic relationship isn’t one of them.

So, this is a story driven by pure prurience, not unlike the TV stories aired in the hours after Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s death.

Director of Public Works, Mohammed Nuru. Photo by Lola M. Chavez.

But it’s still a story. And that’s because Mayor London Breed acknowledged that she last year accepted a $5,600 “gift” from Nuru for auto repair and a rental car.

Mayor London Breed can date whomever she wants. But she cannot accept money from whomever she wants. So this is a problem. This plays into the city’s longstanding reputation for casual corruption, sloppiness, and the overt acknowledgement of a “City Family” that looks out for its own.

It also beggars belief. Breed is the highest-paid mayor in the United States, at more than $300,000 a year. It is confusing that she could not afford to have her car repaired and it is also confusing that she would pay or allow to be paid thousands of dollars to repair an 18-year-old vehicle. But confusion mounts: As mayor, Breed is privy to a San Francisco Police officer-driven vehicle that can be directed toward her personal use. You may recall Mayor Ed Lee’s Chevy Volt illegally parking outside taquerias or dry-cleaning joints and the parking tickets disappearing, or Mayor Gavin Newsom’s tank-sized SUV blocking not one but two wheelchair-access ramps.

So, all of this doesn’t make sense, and invites speculation as to what the mayor might have wanted to do without members of the SFPD tagging along. Supervisor Hillary Ronen wasted no time calling for Breed to resign; she apparently beat Supervisor Matt Haney to the punch.

Breed says this $5,600 is not a problem, though: “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 don’t anticipate anyone will be satisfied by this line of reasoning. Rather, Breed shouldn’t have accepted anything worth more than $460 in a calendar year from a single source, and shouldn’t have taken anything worth more than $25 from a subordinate. There is no “close personal friendship” exception for the rules related to gifts from subordinates.

What’s more, it seems like 10 years ago, but Mayor London Breed was running for re-election last year. If Nuru’s “gift” went toward a vehicle that was used for campaign events, that could constitute an illegal campaign donation — which is a whole new legal minefield to navigate.

“I never asked Mohammed Nuru to do anything improper,” wrote the mayor “and he never asked me to do anything improper.”

But the reason Nuru flourished under five mayors was that he didn’t need to be asked. Once again, let’s trot out what we reported to you on Jan. 12: Nuru’s cleaning crews showed up ahead of time at locations on the mayor’s itinerary and power-washed them. This was subsequently reported by the Chronicle’s Heather Knight, and the Examiner‘s Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez even managed to come up with the written checklist for how this was handled.

Nuru didn’t need to be asked to do this. He just did it.

That was the genius of Nuru. Being willing to do the things you shouldn’t do and shouldn’t be asked to do got him the job. But stuff like this kept him the job.

He was in the midst of many Venn Diagrams connecting many city power players. He made himself indispensable to any number of city officials. In contrast to jailed ex-Sen. Leland Yee, who was always on the periphery of various city tribes, Nuru was a man in the center of things.

And now he’s facing 25 years incarceration. He allegedly blabbed to city politicos about the FBI’s long-running probe after agreeing to cooperate with it; he is, clearly, not the ultimate target here.

Prosecutors have described to Mission Local the feds’ plan for Nuru as “a squeeze play.” If he wouldn’t cooperate with them before, leverage can be applied to cooperate with them now. Twenty-five years’ worth of leverage.

With that in mind, it remains to be seen what, if anything, Nuru chooses to say, and who the focus will turn on next.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day. And it has been a hell of a day today. And it’s not even noon yet.

SF Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code
SEC. 3.216.  GIFTS.
   (a)   Prohibition on Bribery. No person shall offer or make, and no officer or employee shall accept, any gift with the intent that the City officer or employee will be influenced thereby in the performance of any official act.
   (b)   General gift restrictions. In addition to the gift limits and reporting requirements imposed by the Political Reform Act and this Code and any subsequent amendments thereto, no officer or employee of the City and County shall solicit or accept any gift or loan from a person who the officer or employee knows or has reason to know is a restricted source, except loans received from commercial lending institutions in the ordinary course of business.
      (1)   Restricted Source. For purposes of this section, a restricted source means: (A) a person doing business with or seeking to do business with the department of the officer or employee; or (B) a person who during the prior 12 months knowingly attempted to influence the officer or employee in any legislative or administrative action.
      (2)   Gift. For purposes of this subsection, the term gift has the same meaning as under the Political Reform Act, California Government Code Section 81000 et seq., and the regulations adopted thereunder, including any subsequent amendments. Gifts exempted from the limits imposed by California Government Code Section 89503 and Section 3.1-101 of the Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code shall also be exempted from the prohibition set forth in this subsection.
      (3)   Regulations. The Ethics Commission shall issue regulations implementing this section, including regulations exempting voluntary gifts that are nominal in value such as gifts that are given by vendors to clients or customers in the normal course of business.
   (c)   Gifts from Subordinates. No officer or employee shall solicit or accept any gift or loan, either directly or indirectly, from any subordinate or employee under his or her supervision or from any candidate or applicant for a position as a subordinate or employee under his or her supervision. The Ethics Commission shall issue regulations implementing this Section, including regulations exempting voluntary gifts that are given or received for special occasions or under other circumstances in which gifts are traditionally given or exchanged.
SEC. 3.242.  PENALTIES AND ENFORCEMENT.
   (a)   Criminal Penalties. Any person who knowingly or willfully violates any of the City’s conflict of interest and governmental ethics laws shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 for each violation or by imprisonment in the County jail for a period of not more than one year in jail or by both such fine and imprisonment.
   (b)   Civil Penalties. Any person who intentionally or negligently violates any City conflict of interest or governmental ethics law shall be liable in a civil action brought by the City Attorney for an amount up to $5,000 for each violation.
   (c)   Injunctive Relief. The City Attorney or any resident may bring a civil action on behalf of the people of San Francisco to enjoin violations of or compel compliance with a conflict of interest or governmental ethics law. No resident may commence a civil action under this Section without first notifying the City Attorney in writing of the intent to file a civil action under this Section. If the City Attorney fails to notify the resident within 120 days of receipt of the notice that the City Attorney has filed or will file a civil action, the complainant may file the action. No resident may file an action under this Section if the City Attorney responds within 120 days that the City Attorney intends to file an action or has already filed a civil action. No resident may bring an action under this Section if the Ethics Commission has issued a finding of probable cause arising out of the same facts, the District Attorney has commenced a criminal action arising out of the same facts, or another resident has filed a civil action under this Section arising out of the same facts. A court may award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs to any resident who obtains injunctive relief under this Section.
   (d)   Administrative Penalties. Any person who violates any of the City’s conflict of interest or governmental ethics laws shall be liable in an administrative proceeding before the Ethics Commission held pursuant to the Charter. In addition to the administrative penalties set forth in the Charter, the Ethics Commission may issue warning letters to City officers and employees.
   (e)   Statute of Limitations. No person may bring a criminal, civil or administrative action under this Section against any other person more than four years after the date of the alleged violation.
(Added by Proposition E, 11/4/2003)