Mayor London Breed, pictured here in 2018 at John's Grill — a restaurant that would come up again today. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez

Update below: Supes weigh in on Breed’s acceptance of nearly $6K from Nuru

Mayor London Breed today acknowledged a past intimate personal relationship with Mohammed Nuru, the ousted former head of San Francisco Public Works — and also revealed that she received money from him last year for car repairs that she did not record on city forms. She wrote this in a Medium post published today. 

“Mohammed Nuru and I have been close personal friends for more than 20 years,” Breed wrote. “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.” 

As part of that friendship, she wrote, last year she received $5,600 from Nuru for car repairs and a rental car. 

Her relationship with Mohammed Nuru, whom the FBI arrested in January on fraud charges, had been acknowledged to Mission Local in the past, and it was known in City Hall and journalistic circles. This paper was previously told by the Mayor’s Office that the relationship took place 20-odd years ago.

The Medium post explains Nuru’s recent help with her car.

Last year, my personal automobile had broken down and Mohammed, acting as my friend, took it to a private auto mechanic,” Breed wrote. “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.”   

She claimed that reporting the assistance was not mandatory and cited the state Fair Political Practices Commission’s rules that gift provided “by an individual with whom the official has a long term, close personal friendship unrelated to the official’s position” need not be disclosed. 

Nevertheless, she said, she will be reporting it on her April 1 “Statement of Economic Interests” disclosure voluntarily.  

In the post, the mayor also said she was “furious” to learn that Nuru, along with restauranteur Nick Bovis, were arrested by federal agents on Jan. 27 on fraud charges. “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,” she wrote.   

Breed strongly distanced herself from that scandal and Nuru’s alleged wrongdoings. 

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

Nuru resigned from his post on Monday, following calls for his ouster.   

I will not apologize for dating someone two decades ago,” Breed added. “I will not apologize for remaining close friends with him and his family for 20 more years.” 

“Now,” she wrote, “we will all have to let the justice system take its course.” 

Update 2:35 p.m.: Supervisor Hillary Ronen called on Breed to resign shortly after news broke of Breed’s acceptance of $5,600 from Nuru last year, which was not disclosed. But Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee is taking a more measured approach. In a statement, he agreed that “If you are in a position of power, you should never put yourself in a situation where you are taking anything of value from your subordinates.” 

But he also stated: “If there is a violation of our ethics laws, that is what our ethics commission and our city attorney are supposed to investigate and to take enforcement actions if they discover any violations. Let’s let them do their jobs.”

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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.

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  1. I have a bunchhhhhh of questions:

    Mayor Breed,

    I voted for you, but feel this is not quite transparent enough:

    “Last year. . .” — When, exactly? If it was between June 4, 2019 (when you officially filed for re-election) and November 5, 2019 (election day), couldn’t this be considered campaign support that should’ve been documented as such? At that time, did his department have any important business before you that needed your sign off, approval, or input?

    “…my personal automobile had broken down and Mohammed, acting as my friend, took it to a private auto mechanic…” Did you ask him to or did he volunteer? Was this in person, over e-mail, over text? Are there any withnesses to this exchange aside from the two of you? Did you give him the keys, did he have access to the keys, or was the hand off of the keys done through an intermediary? If it was an intermediary, was this person part of your staff or campaign? What does ‘private auto mechanic’ mean — is this to infer it was not taken to a business that is liscenced, bonded, and insured? Did this mechanic have any business with the city — then or now or under consideration?

    “The estimated cost of repairs seemed more than the 18-year-old car was worth, but Mohammed had it fixed.” What is the make, model, & year of this car? What was wrong with it? Was the estimate done by the “private mechanic” or someone else? Was there a second estimate done? Did you communicate with the private mechanic about this estimate or was this communicated to by Mr. Nuru on the mechanic’s behalf? Was this communicated to you in person, over text, via e-mail, or by letter? Did the person who did the estimation know it was for the private vehicle of the Mayor of San Francisco? Was he person who did the estimation think it was for a private vehicle of the director of the Public Works Department? Did you explicitly instruct Mr. Nuru to not have it fixed if it was more than the car was worth and he went ahead and did it anyway? If so, how was this instruction communicated — text, e-mail, memo, in person? Are there any other people aside from the two of you who knew about this instruction?

    “Later, when the car still wasn’t working, he helped secure a rental.” This needs a lot more elaboration. Did he rent a car in his name and then let you use it? Did he rent the car in an official capacity? Were you on any documentation as a second driver? Was this car rented from a company or a private individual? Did the entity or person this car was rented from have any business in front of the city or the public works department? How long was the rental for? What was the price of the rental — did it meet market rates, exceed market rates, or fall bellow market rates?

    “The estimated value of those things is about $5,600. . .” Why is this an estimate? Your explanation says the repairs were done and paid for and the car was rented. What is the exact value of these things? Or is this an estimate beuase that’s what you paid and he could’ve ben skimming off the top and passing on the rest to the mechanic and the provider of the car rental?

    “It had been my intention to sell the car (which is still not running consistently, even after the repairs) and reimburse Mohammed.” Do you have a replacement vehicle already or are you still using the rental car? If you have a replacement vehicle or are no longer using a private vehicle, what are the exact dates you started and stopped using the rental car? Had you taken any concrete actions before Feb. 14, 2020 to sell the car — looking up the bluebook value, taking pictures to sell the car, investigating where to list it, looking into charity donations, checking in with the City & County of San Francisco Ethics Commission on the best way for a Mayor to sell their private vehicle? You’ve stated that the repairs are more than the worth of the car, what’s the diffence between the worth of the car and what it will cost to reimburse Mr. Nuru? Was any documentation produced indicating a timeline as to when you would pay him back? Are there other parties previous to today who know about the $5,600 you owe to to Mr. Nuru? Do they have business before you, the city, or public works?

    And lastly: at any point during any of this, did you alert the City & County of San Francisco Ethics Commission as to what was going on? Were you ever advised to? Is there documentation of that advice? If so & you did not: why didn’t you? If it never occurred to you or anyone else who knew about this to record this or seek counsel about it, what changes have you made in your decision making processes to make sure it does not happen again?

  2. Unreal. Mayor Breed lis letting the public know she had an affair with Nuru to legally assuage a kickback. She is scrambling.

    Nuru’s direct supervisors claiming ignorance and promising honest investigations is a joke. The failure extends to Kelly and Breed, and it’s not reasonable to think the City Attorney’s office can be independent in an investigation.

  3. Just curious — why did you leave out the part about “It had been my intention to sell the car (which is still not running consistently, even after the repairs) and reimburse Mohammed.”

    I remember a while back you took the SFPD to task on the Jamaica Hampton shooting because their 30 word initial statement didn’t include details that you deemed significant.

    But you had as much space as needed for an article, not just a statement. Just curious why you seemed to draw the line just short of Breed’s claim that she was waiting to sell the car and pay Nuru back?

    1. It’s inconceivable that on a $300k per year salary, Breed has to have someone repair a car for her — particularly one THAT SHE DIDN’T EVEN WANT REPAIRED. This story is pretty flimsy… especially after the fact of getting caught.

      More ?

  4. “the Controller operates independently of the Mayor’s Office”
    Theoretically – but slightly dis-ingenious.
    The Controller is appointed by the Mayor and BOS.
    The position is an integral part of The Family.

    And yeah “Last year” the mayor made 250K +
    Needed financial assistance for car repair?
    None of her aids could figure out how to rent a car for her?

    This is a person/position that oversees the budget via the Controller.
    Perhaps it’s just like SF revenue/spending in general – no matter how much money comes rolling in – there’s never enough.

  5. The past relationship is nothing but having your car fixed and being provided a rental car to the tune of over $5,000 by a subordinate is corruption.  I doubt Nuru actually paid for the work.  Who did or who did the work for future or continued city contracts?  Did he do this favor on personal time?  Both the mayor and Nuru made over $250,000 last year.  I think this story is just beginning.

    1. You got that right! Her (Breed) interpretation of the Ethics Commissions’ instruction & training about such gifts, help by & between public officials seems pretty clear & contrary to her idea that it was a personal matter by & between friends! Say WHAT?!

    1. Sir or madam —

      The mayor took it upon herself to publish this on the Internet. Not reporting on it would seem to be a terrible decision, no?



      1. Thanks, Joe. Readers should look carefully at a part of her statement, about what FPPC said she did NOT need to report.
        Any gift “.. provided by an individual with whom the official has a long term, personal friendship UNRELATED TO THE OFFICIAL’S POSITION”. [ emphasis mine.]
        [ Rhetorically]
        How could the DPW head NOT have a relationship to a District Supe. and then Mayor?
        As more comes out, the scandal spreads.

      2. Hi,

        I was taken aback by the sensationalist headline of “Mohammed Nuru Investigation: Mayor London Breed had a romantic relationship with ousted Public Works director”, which leaves the reader with the impression that it was much more recent than 2 decades ago.

        Seems the more relevant headline would be associated with the $5600 she received.

    2. As noted this is literally a matter of public record, and we need MORE reporting on this, not less. It seems the official line, which may in fact be legal, is that if you hire or are hired by your friends to a position in city government, you can funnel dirty money through your personal aquaintences in government and classify it as a “gift between friends”. This is institutional corruption at its finest.