Mayor London Breed addresses personal relationship with embattled San Francisco city official Mohammed Nuru

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ByKate Larsen KGO logo
Saturday, February 15, 2020
SF mayor details personal relationship with Mohammed Nuru
San Francisco Mayor London Breed released a statement Friday morning detailing her friendship, romance and a questionable gift from former public works director Mohammed Nuru who was arrested on charges of corruption.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco Mayor London Breed released a statement Friday morning detailing her friendship, former romance and a "gift" from former public works director Mohammed Nuru who was arrested on charges of corruption.

Mayor Breed is revealing new details in an essay on the website Medium, saying she wants to "dispel some unfortunate rumors that have already begun to circulate."

RELATED: SF Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru resigns in wake of corruption scandal

Breed says she dated Nuru briefly, two decades ago, long before she ever ran for office.

"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," Breed wrote.

Breed also discloses that Nuru gifted her approximately $5,600 by having her car repaired and securing her a rental vehicle. The mayor says she intended to pay him back and while the gift is not required to be reported, she is making the voluntary disclosure.

ABC7 News sat down with Stanford Law Professor Deborah Rhode for more insight on if Mayor Breed broke the law when she accepted Nuru's gift.

"Law prohibits accepting gift from someone whom you have a supervisory relationship and the mayor in this case had firing and hiring authority over this individual," said Professor Rhode. "But that's the state ethics law, there's a local law that doesn't have the exception. And the notion that she accepted this temporarily and was planning to pay it back I think compounds the problem here."

San Francisco Supervisor Gordon Mar says he thinks the mayor should temporarily step back from her duties until an investigation can be completed.

"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," Mar said in a statement.

Supervisor Matt Haney agrees with Mar and believes there should be a full investigation.

"These revelations are very serious and likely illegal," Haney told ABC7 News. "The mayor confessed that she received a $5,600 dollar 'gift' from a subordinate who is being charged by the FBI for corruption. And she only admitted it after investigations started to uncover widespread corruption in departments she is in charge of. You aren't allowed to accept gifts from your subordinate. Period. This a deep betrayal of the public trust and likely a violation of the law. There should be a full City Attorney and District Attorney investigation, with the results shared with the public."

In an interview with ABC7 News, Supervisor Hillary Ronen says London Breed should resign immediately.

"It's ethically wrong, and more importantly, it's a legal violation," Ronen said. "And because of that serious violation, and the serious culture of corruption that pervades this city, I believe she should voluntarily resign."

Supervisor Aaron Peskin shared his reaction to Breed's essay saying, "I can't help but believe the Mayor's office is in a crisis communications mode. They obviously have known about this or she has known about this for a very long time.The fact that they are dumping it on a Friday before a three day weekend is not arbitrary.... the real question here is what else don't we know?"

"I do not care about who dated who when, but I do care about subordinates giving their bosses gifts, not reporting those gifts, there are gift limits under the law. They are far below $5,600," Peskin said.

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin released a statement regarding the new details from London Breed:

"One of the most important responsibilities of the District Attorney is to objectively and impartially investigate criminal activity. Since taking over as District Attorney last month, I have learned about the ongoing federal investigation into public corruption in our city. I have been asked about details that emerged today regarding possible ethical violations by Mayor Breed. My office will investigate any potential criminal liability, as we take public corruption very seriously. However, the Mayor, like everyone else, is presumed innocent. Please contact us at 415-553-9535 if you have any information."

BART Director Lateefah Simon released a statement saying she was "impressed with her (London Breed's) forthcoming nature."

"She's the mayor of city she loves so deeply. I do know that the ways in which African American elected officials, especially women, are portrayed, we need to be forthright, which she's being, we need to be honest, which she's being, and she's stepping out."

Another BART director, Bevan Dufty said:

"I just want to put myself on the record and say that while we have political differences, I'm proud of her for coming forward in the way that she did and I think that while her post is painful to read in some ways, I think that there's real beauty in it and also a vulnerability. Those of us that are blessed and entrusted by the public to have power, sometimes it's good for us to be a little more vulnerable."

Mayor Breed spoke out after releasing the statement. Watch her address here:

Mayor London Breed's full statement can be read below:

I write this in the spirit of transparency, because in the wake of a scandal at City Hall, I think San Franciscans are entitled to hear directly from their Mayor. And also, quite frankly, to dispel some unfortunate rumors that have already begun to circulate.

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.

And so it was with a profound sense of shock, sadness, disappointment and anger that I learned of the federal charges against Mohammed announced two weeks ago.

From the perspective of serving as your Mayor, I was furious. 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. This could weigh down the hardworking women and men of not only the Public Works Department, but the City workforce as a whole. We endeavor to earn the public trust, work hard and achieve results for our City, but scandals like this one cut away at the public's faith in our departments.

From the perspective of a close personal friend, I was confused and heartbroken. If the charges are true, I can only wonder how could someone give up so much, for seemingly so little, endanger one's hard-earned reputation and livelihood, and upend the lives of family, friends, colleagues and the citizens he served? It was, and remains, shocking.

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.

When he was arrested, Mohammed was placed on leave by his supervisor. I immediately called for the City Attorney and Controller to conduct an independent investigation into the charges and the impacted departments, and issued an Executive Directive calling on City employees to be transparent and prioritize cooperation with the investigation.

Shortly after he was arrested, some local officials and many in the public called for his immediate firing. While I understand that call, it's imperative that we respect all the laws and procedures pertaining to a public employee's termination. Before this process had been completed, however, he submitted his resignation.

Now, we will all have to let the justice system take its course.

For my part, I will do my job - which includes supporting the independent investigation under way by the City Attorney and the Controller. The City Attorney is an independently elected official; the Controller operates independently of the Mayor's Office. Whatever comes of the federal case, I am confident our City Attorney and Controller will uncover any improper actions that were taken and recommend reforms to ensure they never happen again. Once we have recommendations and analysis completed by these two independent offices, I will join my fellow elected officials to implement any reforms necessary to restore the public trust.

As I said, I've known Mohammed for more than 20 years, and as with so many others in our City government, I've been both a friend and a colleague. This situation has forced so many of us to examine our relationship.

And in the spirit of my directive to city employees to be as transparent as possible, I want to note that in my annual "Statement of Economic Interests," due this coming April 1, I will voluntarily disclose a "gift" of approximately $5,600 from Mohammed Nuru.

Last year, my personal automobile had broken down and Mohammed, acting as my friend, took it to a private auto mechanic. 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. The estimated value of those things is about $5,600. It had been my intention to sell the car (which is still not running consistently, even after the repairs) and reimburse Mohammed.

Now, gifts provided "by an individual with whom the official has a long term, close personal friendship unrelated to the official's position" are not required to be reported under the Fair Political Practices Commission's rules. But since I have not yet been able to sell the car - and given all that has now happened - I have chosen to make this voluntary disclosure.

I realize that my close friendship to someone accused of something so serious will undoubtedly affect my life, and maybe even my life's work. It has happened before, with friends and loved ones and members of my broader community.

It is part of the reason this hurts so much; I have striven my entire life to rise above the negative stereotypes and harmful expectations cast upon myself and those around me, to perform a public service, and to earn the public's trust.

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

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.

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.

But I can't worry about that now. What's important is that we all hold ourselves accountable to the people of San Francisco, and do our jobs to the best of our abilities, honestly and faithfully, as our oath requires.

We must continue to support the hard-working employees at our Public Works Department, who are out there every day cleaning our streets and striving to improve our City. Finally, we must take this opportunity to make necessary reforms to strengthen accountability in our departments and restore the public trust.