Willie Brown’s take on Feds takedown of a San Francisco City Hall insider

I thought that Da Mayor would take the low key approach in discussing the Feds bust of Mohammed Nuru – Department of Public Works (DPW) director.

The former Mayor, San Francisco  political and social fixture and now must read Sunday columnnist  dissects the story in a way only he can.

San Francisco Chronicle – Willie Brown – 2.1.2020


SF corruption scandal: Your good name is worth more than a tractor

Photo of Willie Brown

If Mohammed Nuru did what he’s accused of, it’s hard to figure what the head of San Francisco’s Public Works department was thinking.

Nuru and restaurateur Nick Bovis are in the middle of the city’s biggest corruption scandal in years. They allegedly tried to bribe an airport commissioner to help Bovis land a chicken restaurant lease at SFO. They allegedly cut inside deals aimed at getting Bovis a contract to supply portable toilets. Nuru allegedly accepted trips and fancy wine to help a Chinese developer with a building project, and he allegedly had a city contractor pour concrete at his Colusa County vacation home and got a free John Deere tractor in the deal to boot.

A chicken restaurant, portable toilets and a tractor. That would be pretty low-rent material to risk your career and good name for.

Nuru’s lawyer says he’s looking forward to answering the charges in court, and I want to believe Nuru is innocent. Because the guy in the criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors last week isn’t the one I knew when I was mayor.

Nuru came to Public Works after I took office. He’s been described as a guy who couldn’t be beat when it came to getting a street fixed, and that’s definitely true. Ed Lee, whom I put in charge of Public Works, recognized that and promoted him to deputy director in 2000.

Nuru ran a nonprofit gardening program for homeless people on the side, and he did get into hot water for having some of the workers campaign for Gavin Newsom when he first ran for mayor. He survived that and Newsom kept him on, and when Lee became mayor, he put Nuru in charge of Public Works.

Lee and Nuru were close friends, as well. At times, they would drive around town after work with brooms in the trunk. If they saw something that needed picking up, they stopped and picked it up.

Nuru was a can-do guy whom just about every supervisor could call to get a job done in their district. There’s nothing wrong with that. Public officials from all political stripes do favors for their constituents, their friends and their supporters. Friendly union leaders, nonprofit heads, developers and the like are in and out of City Hall full time.