On Monday, the head of San Francisco Public Works (SFPW), who refers to himself as “Mr. Clean” on Twitter, and whose department is charged with cleaning up the drug needles, feces and urine on the city’s streets, was arrested by the FBI on suspicion of public corruption.
Mohammed Nuru, the head of SFPW, was arrested on suspicion of accepting bribes for airport concession contracts, NBC Bay Area reported, according to Fox News. The San Francisco Chronicle reported, “FBI agents on Monday arrested Nuru, 57, and Bovis, 56, at their Bay Area homes before unsealing a federal complaint Tuesday for one charge of wire fraud. Nuru is separately charged with lying to the FBI after initially being arrested on Jan. 21 and being told to keep quiet about the investigation.”
This is a sad day for San Francisco.
These charges against Director Nuru demonstrate the need for much broader reforms.
We urgently need a top to bottom restructuring of the Dept, with much stronger public oversight, accountability and transparency.https://t.co/p6SO003TJU
— Matt Haney (@MattHaneySF) January 28, 2020
The Chronicle added, “Nuru is a visible department head who’s been at the post for nearly two decades and is deeply intertwined in San Francisco’s so-called city family, which includes former Mayors Willie Brown, Gavin Newsom and Ed Lee and current Mayor Breed.” The Chronicle opined, “ … a succession of four mayors ignored bright red flags about his performance for decades … Mayors Willie Brown, Gavin Newsom, Ed Lee and London Breed counted on Nuru to respond to a call or text at any hour … City Hall observers said privately that Nuru’s loyalty may have discouraged mayors from looking too closely at how he ran his ship at Public Works despite documented complaints over the years.”
The Chronicle detailed, “In 2004, a Chronicle investigation uncovered accusations that nine people from Nuru’s nonprofit, SLUG, were forced to do work for Newsom’s mayoral campaign and were pressured into voting for him for mayor. They reportedly were told their jobs with the city would be in danger if they didn’t cooperate.”
David Anderson, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, stated on Tuesday, “The complaint alleges corruption pouring into San Francisco from around the world,” and accused Nuru of “corruption, bribery kickbacks and side deals by one of San Francisco’s highest-ranking public employees.”
Nuru supervises 1,600 employees as well as the design and construction of city facilities.
Nick Bovis, the owner of the sports bar Lefty O-Doul’s, was also arrested. In 2017, the two men supported “Tiny Potties” that the Chronicle said were supposed to resemble the Painted Ladies Victorian homes near Alamo Square.
Supervisor Matt Haney slammed Nuru, saying, “It’s a shock. I think that department has been run like a one-person fiefdom for a long time. There’s an understanding that ‘everything goes through Mohammed,’ and if you piss him off, there’s retribution. I think there needs to be an overhaul of that department. We need much more accountability and transparency there.” He added, “When you have a department head who can make everything or nothing happen, it’s disastrous for both potential corruption and effective city services. Both failed. He was created by mayors for their own purposes to be able to deliver things they wanted.”
Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer echoed the news “came as a complete shock … There was no buzz at City Hall, and that’s a place where secrets are hard to keep.”