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Haney calls for independent investigation of public corruption charges

Three San Francisco supervisors are calling for an independent investigation into an alleged public corruption scandal involving Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru.

Supervisors Matt Haney, Gordon Mar and Dean Preston said during a Thursday morning press conference that they are working on a Request for Proposal to hire an independent investigator. They will task the investigator to look into the extent of corruption at the Department of Public Works and the San Francisco Airport Commission.

On Monday, Nuru and Nick Bovis, owner of the well-known Lefty O’Douls restaurant, were accused of a number of bribery and fraud schemes by U.S. Attorney of Northern California David Anderson. Each men face one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Additionally, Nuru faces an additional count for lying to the FBI for speaking about the investigation to other parties. Nuru could face a maximum of 25 years in prison if found guilty of all charges.

One alleged scheme was an attempt to bribe an airport commissioner, who has now been identified as Linda Crayton, to approve a restaurant lease for Bovis at the airport. Citing serious health issues, Crayton on Wednesday provided Mayor London Breed with a resignation letter.

Haney said Thursday about the corruption charges:

“His [Nuru’s] approach was fostered and protected by city leaders who turned a blind eye. It is imperative that City Hall sends a message that we have zero tolerance for blatant corruption.”

Haney said that anyone connected to illegal activity in this situation should resign.

Jerold Chinn/SFBay Supervisor Matt Haney, at a press conference in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, January 30, 2020, called for an independent investigator to look into the Department of Public Works.

The supervisor added: 

“The culture of pay-to-play politics at City Hall must end. San Franciscans deserve transparent, accountable, effective government. We have a long way to go to achieve this goal.”

Breed spoke Wednesday about further investigation into contracts involving Nuru.

She said:

“The plan is of course to continue to work with the City Attorney’s Office and Controller’s Office to really look into a number of contracts within the department to determine whether or not there were issues with those contracts.”

The mayor said she was surprised and very disappointed by the allegations against director.

Emphasizing the need for independent investigation, Supervisor Dean Preston said: 

“We absolutely cannot rely on the executive branch of government in the City and County of San Francisco to investigate itself. That does not work as shown by the long standing corruption that is being revealed as the days unfold.”

A development project in District 5 at 555 Fulton St. has also drawn attention in the 75-page complaint against Nuru.

The complaint alleges Nuru was given free lodging, travel and wine worth $2,070 by an unnamed Chinese billionaire developer in an attempt to expedite the permitting process for the mixed-use property.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Zhang Li, CEO and co-chairman of R&F Properties, is the developer of concern in the complaint. The identification is credited to unnamed source with direct knowledge of the situation. SFBay has not yet confirmed this information.

Aaron Levy-Wolins/SFBay San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru has been charged with public corruption and lying to the FBI in a 75-page criminal complaint.

Preston, who represents District 5, said it is important to learn more about the specific project development.

Supervisor Gordon Mar said while allegations against Nuru are appalling, they are not shocking.

Mar, who represents the Sunset District, reminded the public of former local politicians who represented District 4 and served prison time for corruption-related charges. Mar specifically named former state Sen. Leland Yee and former Supervisor Ed Jew.

“Corruption is not only a violation of the public trust and is not only criminal, but it also breeds incompetence. It hurts moral and makes government less effective.”

Mar said the discussion of corruption must go beyond recent criminal complaints and focus more broadly on holding those with power accountable to the people they serve.

According to Haney, the RFP scope of the work is still being developed with Mar and city staff. The supervisor believes the proposal could be ready within a matter of weeks.

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