SF Official Arrested for Graft Should Have Been Axed Years Ago

Last month, when the FBI arrested San Francisco Department of Public Works boss Mohammed Nuru, many Bay Area residents breathed a sigh of relief.

As Susan Dyer Reynolds noted in Marina Times, Nuru’s ascent started in 1991 when he became second in command at the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG), a nonprofit managing community gardens. Nuru came to the attention of then–California Assemblyman Willie Brown and worked for Brown’s mayoral campaign and his reelection campaign in 1999. In 2000 Brown hired Nuru as DPW deputy director of operations and “soon staff complaints rolled in about Nuru flaunting city rules and misusing public funds.”

After Mohammed Nuru took over as DPW boss in 2011, the complaints continued as excrement began piling up on San Francisco streets. As NBC News headlined a 2018 story, “San Francisco Paid Firm $400K for Research Claiming City is Nearly Spotless; Complaints Over Trash, Needles, Feces Soaring.” That was Nuru’s doing, and the DPW boss kept his job as the excrement piled up to record levels, and San Francisco’s new District Attorney, Chesa Boudin, refuses to prosecute public defecation.

In late January, the FBI arrested Mohammed Nuru and restauranteur Nick Bovis for a scheme to bribe an official of the Airport Commission. “The complaint describes a web of corruption involving bribery, kickbacks, and side deals by one of San Francisco’s highest-ranking city employees,” the U.S. Attorney said in a statement. “The public is entitled to honest work from public officials, free from manipulation for the official’s own personal benefit and profit.” The complaint also charges Mohammed Nuru with “using his official position to benefit a billionaire in China who was developing a large multimillion-dollar mixed-use project in San Francisco, in exchange for travel and lodging, high-end liquor, and other gifts and benefits.”

If convicted, Nuru faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He is currently free on $2 million bail and made no public statement after a court appearance last Thursday. As CBS News reports, “he is on paid leave.” The city did not fire Nuru, who finally resigned on Monday, February 10. “It shouldn’t have taken this long,” Supervisor Matt Haney told reporters. “We also need a fully independent investigation and broader reform of this broken, unaccountable department that has failed to keep our streets clean.”

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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