San Francisco Mayor London Breed admitted Friday on the social media platform Medium that she had a prior relationship with former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru and received a gift from him last year.

Titled “Transparency and Accountability,” Breed admits they dated 20 years ago and have remained close friends ever since.

The mayor said:

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

She added:

“To be clear: I never asked Mohammed Nuru to do anything improper, and he never asked me to do anything improper. 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.”

Ching Wong/SFBay San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru speaks at a rally asking for walking safety during seventh annual Walk to Work Day at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. (Ching Wong/SFBay)

City Hall has been rocked by scandal since the FBI arrested Nuru last month for alleged public corruption. The City Attorney and Controller’s offices jointly issued subpoenas to corporations and nonprofits earlier this week involving donations reportedly used to pay for a Public Works holiday party.

The mayor explained that Nuru helped her last year when she needed to fix her 18-year-old personal vehicle and that he helped her obtain a rental car while the vehicle was disabled.

The total cost of repairs and the rental was $5,600, Breed wrote.

The mayor wrote she planned to sell the vehicle and pay Nuru for the cost of repairs and vehicle rental.

Breed claimed she was not required to report the gift under the state’s Fair Political Practice Commission rules, which says officials are not required to report gifts if “an individual with whom the official has a long term, close personal friendship unrelated to the official’s position.

She said she will now disclose the gift in her April 1 annual Statement of Economic Interests because she has not sold the vehicle or reimbursed Nuru.

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.

Breed made no apologies for her past relationship with Nuru or for remaining close with him and his family, adding:

“But neither will I make excuses for any misdeeds. He will have to live with any consequences, and we in government must work to ensure our institutions live up to the highest levels of integrity.”

The mayor acknowledged that she invites criticism from political foes with Friday’s disclosure, saying: 

“I have no doubt that some will seek to exploit what I have shared here, to harm me politically. I, and others, may be weighed down from guilt by association as a result of this episode.”

Breed said she cannot worry about how some might use the information to attack her and said The City must continue to support the employees of Public Works

Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee released this statement:

“Mayor Breed made a mistake and has acknowledged it publicly. 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. In the best interests of our city, I’m focused on the hard work we need to do to restore trust in our government.”

Yee added: if Breed had violated any ethics laws that the City Attorney’s Office and Ethics Commission will investigate:

“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.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Supervisor Hillary Ronen said she wanted the mayor to resign while Supervisor Gordon Mar said he would like to see the mayor step back from her duties until an investigation is completed.

Mar said:

“Mayor Breed’s admission of thousands of dollars in unreported gifts from a subordinate is likely illegal, certainly unethical, and part of a culture of casual corruption that is eroding the faith of the public. It must end. Given the seriousness of this admission, the direct connection to the central figure in the FBI’s investigation into public corruption, I believe we need to put the people of San Francisco first. I believe Mayor Breed should do the right thing and temporarily step back from her duties until a full, independent investigation can be completed.”

SFBay has reached out to the City Attorney’s Office to see if they will investigate, but have yet to hear back from the office.

Note: This story has been updated on Feb. 15 to include comments from members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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