Mayor London Breed on Election Night 2018. Photo by Mallory Newman.

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.
   (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)

Follow Us

Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

Join the Conversation


Please keep your comments short and civil. Do not leave multiple comments under multiple names on one article. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. So people were buggin over london breed getting 5600 bucks worth of gifts OVER 20 YEARS from a dude she was dating BEFORE she even got into a political office in san Francisco? Y’all do realize this would be like back in 1998/99/00? She didnt even become an intern til 2002 or so.


  2. Let me see if I have this story straight – Someone in city government spent a lot of money to fix something decrepit, as a favor for a political friend. And the thing they were supposed to fix still doean’t work? Sounds a lot like business as usual for San Francisco.

    1. It’s inconceivable that this is all there is to the story. This is the one thing that came out so far. If they keep squeezing, keep digging, more will cone out. Nuru and Breed have known each other closely for 20 + years. I’m sure there has been a lot not back scratching going on than just s $5k car payment a year ago.

  3. Look, everyone keeps harping on the fact that she makes $300K a year and can’t afford to fix her old car even though she has a free car and driver from the city. But $300K isn’t that much in San Francisco! All he gave her was $5,000. That’s nothing! She could barely buy a new Rolex with that. That kind of bribe doesn’t get you anything.

    If we want squeaky-clean follow-every-damn-rule politicians running the city, we’ll end up with a bunch of damn Republicans! And you know what that would mean: clean streets. And no one wants that.

    Honesty and integrity are for the rubes.

  4. Those who talk against San Francisco’s 45’s Mayor are disloyal. Deal with it.
    The FBI is part of the deep state.
    there is no corruption that justifies removal from office.
    The car repair was perfect
    God Bless San Francisco and the men and women protecting us.

  5. I hope someone is also looking at City Administrator (an appointed, not elected position) Naomi Kelly, the highest ranking official under the mayor. She was Nuru’s direct boss. Is woefully inept at her job that she didn’t know what was going on? I think she is paid around the same as the mayor, who, incidentally, is the highest paid mayor in the entire country. This is quite the gravy train these folks are on. Especially when you add in the salary of Kelly’s husband, who is the highest ranking executive at the San Francisco PUC.

    Choo choo! I wanna get on this train!

    Here’s the org chart:

  6. Good questions.
    Highest paid mayor can’t afford to repair her car? Won’t use the city provided one?
    This certainly doesn’t pass the smell test.

    What a shame. I kinda liked London B.

    The $5600 sounds like the cheese in the trap.

    1. Helping a friend get their car fixed is no different than helping someone move. Am I supposed to believe that not a single person here would say yes to a friend in need of help? What’s wrong with you people? Is it the anonymity of the internet that makes you mean people or is that you are just so bitter that your candidate lost that you’d sell your morals just to get even? Sounds familiar, no?

      1. Ethics are particular not only to the activity, but also to the people participating in the activity. If you don’t understand this, you are obviously not a politician or journalist.

        Ethically, politicians and journalists need to be careful who they even accept a drink from — one could be being polite, but two is conflict territory. Personally I think even the annual John’s press/politician shindig is sketch.

        If Breed didn’t understand this when she accepted Nuru’s help, then she has no business being mayor.

        1. Hay I don’t believe that giving or taking a few thousand dollars from a long time friend is a crime or corruption.
          The immoral and greedy criminal who lives in the White House is more dangerous to our country and the world.
          Everyone who cares about our country should work hard and unite to remove the mad man before he damages our republic and our Democracy.

  7. This whole scenario also may shed some light on this little tidbit from the Leland Yee investigation (via Wikipedia): “Businessman Derf Butler was recorded talking about allegedly paying for access to Breed. According to court documents released in 2015, Butler told an FBI source that he “pays Supervisor Breed with untraceable debit cards for clothing and trips in exchange for advantages on contracts in San Francisco.” The allegation was denied by Breed, who as a member of the Board of Supervisors had no role in contract selections.”

    But Nuru certainly had some role in contract selections and it sounds like the “family” relationship was pretty strong. The car repair payment looks just like a lot of Nuru’s other payments… Quid pro quo and all that, and the optics of the payment to a mayor with a $300k annual salary — not good.

    Ronen seems to be foaming at the mouth at all the possibilities here, but God help us if yet another ultra progressive tips the scale of our already insane city government, so let’s hope the white progressives don’t manage to oust our first female African American mayor.

    According to progressive values, shouldn’t Breed be given some pretty liberal leeway—let’s say reparations or restorative justice. It would be awfully hypocritical for Ronen (from her position of white privilege) to go after a native SF born, projects-raised, female African-American mayor.

    1. Ronen will do and say anything that gets her closer to the mayors office. Politics in the Democratic Party are more divided than that of the republicans and Democrats. Keep running on hate and slander, Ronen. Maybe Trump will make you VP. It’s pretty clear that all you want is power at no matter the cost to the well being of San Francisco.

  8. Bribery means never having to ask. Winking and nodding not needed either when both parties understand the game. Please, this is bent as Lombard. Mayor Breed should resign, which probably means she won’t.

    1. Actually bribery does require a demand. I think you might wanna pull back on the cognitive dissonance you’ve developed.

  9. She makes $300k and can’t afford to get her own car fixed. Wait a minute. Income and good credit are necessarily synonymous.

  10. What does it say about Mr. Clean’s budget and decision making skills, that he paid $5,000 to fix an 18 year old car?

    What mechanic charged $5,000 to fix a car, and didn’t even fix it. I’d like to know the name of that shop.

  11. The sups just don’t like Bree and since they lost the mayors race, they still want to take her down!
    Start your investigation with the old mayors!
    Bree wasn’t around when the trash started!!

    1. Investigating other mayors are fine but let’s settle this current mayor now. Taking money is not right, it maybe legal but still not right. We cannot rationalize or condone unethical behavior.

  12. Yeah, Breed’s relationship with Nuru only demonstrates literally, what we all knew figuratively: the “City Family” is an incestuous snakepit of self-serving sycophants on the take. No wonder her political instincts are so addled. Casual corruption is always a titillating tale, but the real story, the real scandal — that we’ve lived with since 1977 (when city street sweepers were busted for making the princely sum of $19 an hour) — THE STREETS ARE FILTHY, A DISGRACE, A DISGUSTING PILE OF GARBAGE. And this is the direct responsibility of DPW — i.e. Nuru. The streets are not a mess because Nuru dated Breed or paid for her car. And the corruption involved has got to be far more than “casual” (though for this Family, who knows). Maybe we can get Mike Bloomberg to buy us clean streets and a shiny new Family to run the show.

    1. Yeah, Bloomberg ponied up something for the endorsement. Highly doubt it was anything to benefit San Franciscans though.

    2. “Incestuous’ really? People like you sit and hide behind your computer and make wild accusations without the slightest regard for truth. This goes way beyond politics and only proves that you would say and do anything to shame your opponent, including referencing a disgusting unnatural act in order to get your way. What happened to people. I was under the belief that people, especially in San Francisco, were above all that. Guess I was wrong. People, when allowed to be anonymous, are shameless.