SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Following the arrest of San Francisco’s powerful Department of Public Works boss, the reverberations have not stopped at City Hall, where a push to reform the department could start as soon as Thursday.
“I will say surprised,” London Breed said of the allegations against Mohammed Nuru on Wednesday at the car-free Market Street opening. “And, of course, very disappointed.”
The big Market Street change was exactly the kind of event Mohammed Nuru would have been right in the middle of. While the mayor was more diplomatic, one city supervisor was more animated.
“There’s no question he should be fired immediately,” said District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney. “This is a behemoth department with no oversight, which is a recipe for something like this to happen.”
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Nuru, 58, was arrested Monday by FBI agents and accused of several corruption schemes involving city contracts. Businessman and restaurateur Nick Bovis, 57, owner of the famed Lefty O’Doul’s bar and restaurant, was also arrested as part of the probe, which most notably allegedly involved San Francisco International Airport and the Transbay Transit Center.
Linda Crayton, the Vice President of the SFO Airport Commission, resigned Wednesday. She was identified by her attorney as the unnamed airport commissioner target in the federal complaint.
In many respects, Nuru’s power was unique. He was appointed head of Public Works by Mayor Ed Lee, a man who was himself a former head of public works. As mayor, Lee famously respected those bureaucratic territory lines. And in Nuru’s case, he was running the department central to the biggest challenges facing San Francisco and the mayor.
“The solution is turn over sweeping the streets to Mohammed Nuru,” former Mayor Willie Brown said in 2015, describing the move to have Nuru lead the controversial effort to clean streets of homeless encampments.
Doing that dirty work made Nuru indispensable for a string of mayors. Prosecutors say that influence allowed for impropriety, but there is still a lot that is not known about the government’s case and where it might be going. That’s because prosecutors have also left a lot of important names out.
“The complaint will use phrases like developer one and contractor two, that kind of thing,” US Attorney David L. Anderson explained Tuesday.
Those unanswered questions have some in city hall wondering what else could be learned.
“So this could actually go a lot further than only him and the people who are named,” Supervisor Haney said of the investigation.
The mayor is promising a full reviews of city contracts. Some supervisors want more. Proposals to reform or even break up DPW are expected at city hall Thursday.