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News + PoliticsBreed took $5,600 gift from Nuru; may be illegal

Breed took $5,600 gift from Nuru; may be illegal

Former DPW director paid to have her car fixed and was 'close personal friend' for 20 years.

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Nearly every local news outlet led the latest story on former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru with some version of this:

BREAKING: Mayor Breed just admitted that she had a romantic relationship with Nuru 20 years ago.

That’s hardly big news – everyone at City Hall knew about it and she had never denied it.

In fact, it’s the least important news that came out of Breed’s Medium post today. More important is that Breed has been a “close personal friend” of Nuru ever since.

Why did the mayor, who makes $300K a year, have a subordinate pay to fix her car?

Here’s the real news:

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.

The mayor of San Francisco is paid almost $300,000 a year. And she couldn’t afford to pay for the repairs to her car, or for her own rental car, or to reimburse Nuru after he paid for those things? She still hasn’t paid him back?

Why did the mayor have someone who is, for all practical purposes, a direct subordinate, take her car to be fixed?

Is it even legal for a city official to take a personal gift of more than $500? Larry Bush, an ethics watchdog for years, doesn’t think so.

UPDATE: City law is actually pretty clear on this. SF Government Code Section 3.216 (c) states that

a City officer or employee may not solicit or accept from a subordinate employee any gift, as defined in subsection (b) of this section.

I suppose Breed could argue that since Nuru reports directly to the city administrator, he’s not a “subordinate,” but in practice he certainly is. Article III of the City Charter gives the mayor authority, with the city administrator, to hire or fire the director of public works.

Can we really believe that she was that close a friend all those years and had no idea that he was operating under a culture of corruption?

Maybe. But those are much bigger and more important questions than her love life 20 years ago.

UPDATE: District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced today that his office is investigating, and has set up a tip line, 415-553-9535, for anyone who has information.

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Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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