Former SF Public Works Director Gets Prison Time

“Disgraced former Public Works czar Mohammed Nuru will serve seven years in prison after pleading guilty to a federal fraud charge,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports, “closing one chapter in a corruption scandal that ensnared senior officials and business heavyweights, and shattered the public’s trust in city government.”

As we noted in January, Nuru was a favorite of Willie Brown and worked for his mayoral campaigns. In 2000, Brown hired Nuru as Department of Public Works deputy director of operations, and soon staff complaints rolled in about Nuru flaunting city rules and misusing public funds. In 2011, Nuru took over as DPW boss, and excrement began piling up on San Francisco streets. 

On Nuru’s watch, the city paid $400,000 for a study claiming San Francisco was nearly spotless. The DPW boss, who called himself “Mr. Clean,” kept his job and in 2018, according to CalSalaries.com, Nuru received $323,733 in total compensation. 

In January, 2020, 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 city of San Francisco did not fire Nuru, who finally resigned in February, 2020. In January, the former public works boss pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges. Prosecutors described Nuru as “a quintessential grifter” and the seven-year sentence more than doubles the three-year term sought by his attorneys.

“During my time on the bench, I’ve had to sentence people for really horrible things—gang murders, drug dealing, really deadly stuff,” U.S District Judge William Orrick told Nuru in court. “In many ways, what you’ve done is at least as reprehensible, in my opinion.”

Assemblyman and former San Francisco supervisor Matt Haney told the Chronicle “The sad thing is that he [Nuru] wasn’t alone. The entire apparatus of city government was polluted with his corrupt behavior.” Mayor London Breed, has not been charged with any crime but according to the report, “admitted to accepting gifts from Nuru.”

In addition to his seven-year prison term, Nuru will serve three years of supervised release, perform 100 hours of community service, pay a fine of $35,000, and forfeit his vacation ranch in Colusa County. No word whether Nuru, 59, will still draw his government pension. 

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