San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru has been arrested twice since Jan. 21. The director is facing a number of alleged public corruption charges, U.S. Attorney David Anderson announced Tuesday afternoon at a press conference.

Anderson said:

“The complaint alleges corruption pouring into San Francisco from around the world. The complaint alleges corruption, bribery, side deals by one of San Francisco’s highest ranking public employees.”

Nuru, 58, along with restaurateur Nick Bovis, 57, were each charged with one count of wire fraud. Bovis is the well-known owner of Lefty O’Douls, aka Lefty’s Ballpark Baseball Buffet & Cafe at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Anderson said Nuru was taken in by federal officials on Jan. 21, but said he would cooperate with the investigation and not speak out or tamper with the investigation.

Lefty O'Doul's dispute
Sara Gaiser/BCN Nick Bovis removes horseshoes commemorating retired police horses at Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant on Geary Street near Union Square. The ownership of the restaurant’s name and memorabilia is under dispute.

Nuru is facing an additional charge added Monday for lying to the FBI. He is accused of discussing the case with other parties after his cooperation agreement, Anderson said. Nuru was released on a $2 million bond.

Bovis was also arrested Monday and later released on a $2 million bond.

If found guilty, Nuru faces a sentence of up to 25 years in prison while Bovis is looking at up to 20 years.

The original complaint, filed on Jan. 16, 2020, alleges Nuru and Bovis attempted to bribe a San Francisco Airport Commissioner to vote in favor of approving an airport restaurant lease for a restaurant Bovis is affiliated with.

Airport restaurant leases are supposed to be selected fairly with five members of the San Francisco Airport Commission casting votes for or against potential bidders.

According to the complaint, Nuru instructed Bovis to provide $5,000 to the commissioner who would then convince other commissioners to vote in his favor.

The complaint said the scheme never came to fruition as Bovis was suspicious of an employee he believed was undercover law enforcement.

Anderson laid out four other schemes in the complaint, including unfairly helping a China billionaire developer obtain necessary permits to develop a multimillion-dollar mixed-use project in The City.

Aaron Levy-Wolins/SFBay Mohammed Nuru, San Francisco Public Works director, speaks at a tree maintenance program launch in Noe Valley in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, July 19, 2017.

In return, the complaint said the developer furnished Nuru with free travel, lodging and high-end liquor.

Anderson said Nuru is obligated to disclose gifts he receives, but chose to conceal them.

The third scheme alleges Nuru was attempting to help Bovis obtain a restaurant lease at the new Transbay Transit Center. Nuru sits as the chair of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which oversees the operation of the transit center, including awarding leases to potential businesses.

The complaint alleges Nuru was helping to arrange a meeting between Bovis and “TJPA Executive 1.” 

Nuru is also accused of giving Bovis insider information regarding locations the Department of Public Works was planning to add portable public toilets and specifics of homeless shelter projects. Bovis also owns the Tiny Potties company.

The last scheme alleges Nuru used contractors who do business in The City to renovate his vacation home in Stonyford, Calif.

A DPW employee promised Nuru a discounted rate for concrete work at his vacation home, the complaint said.

Ching Wong/SFBay House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, left, and San Francisco Mayor London Breed, center, San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, left, countdown to turning on the bus schedule screen inside the new Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Aug 10, 2018.

Mayor London Breed said in a statement that the allegations against Nuru are serious and that officials will cooperate with the investigation.

Breed said:

“The City Administrator placed Mohammed Nuru on administrative leave effective Monday evening, and she will soon announce an interim leadership strategy for the Department of Public Works. I’m asking the City Attorney and the Controller to conduct a thorough review of any implicated City contracts or other decisions and to investigate any suspected violations of the law or the stringent guidelines and rules that ensure the integrity of our contracting process.”

Breed added:

“We do not know all the facts of the case at this moment and what will transpire through this investigation going forward. Nothing matters more than the public trust, and each and every one of us who works for the City must hold ourselves to the highest standard. I accept nothing less for myself or for those who serve in this Administration, and I will do everything I can to ensure that those who fail to uphold that standard are held accountable.”

Both Nuru and Bovis are due to appear in court Feb. 6 at 11:30 a.m.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay and covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a San Francisco native and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Follow Jerold on Twitter @jerold_chinn. Email tips to jerold@sfbay.ca.

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