Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru leaves following a court appearance at the Phillip Burton Federal Building on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Disgraced Public Works head Nuru resigns after FBI arrest

Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru has resigned weeks after his arrest on public corruption charges.

Nuru has been replaced by an acting director, Mayor London Breed said in a statement today. Nuru appeared in federal court last Thursday. He and restaurateur Nick Bovis, who is also facing federal charges, were released from custody on a $2 million bond following their arrest in late January.

Since news broke on Jan. 28 that Nuru was arrested over allegations that he attempted to bribe an airport official $5,000 to obtain a restaurant lease, city officials and the public have called for Nuru to lose his job.

Now, Breed is ready to find new leadership for Public Works.

“While I understand the desire for him to be fired immediately, it’s important that we follow all the laws required to terminate a public employee, no matter the circumstances. Before this process had been completed, he submitted his resignation,” Breed said in a statement.

“We can now move the Department forward under new leadership,” she said. “Our goal is to continue to support the hard-working employees of this department and to continue its mission of cleaning our streets, performing critical infrastructure work, and taking care of our City. I will continue to support the full independent investigation underway to uncover any improper actions that were taken and recommend reforms to ensure they never happen again.”

Perhaps one of the most vocal officials calling for Nuru’s ouster has been Supervisor Matt Haney. Reacting to the news Monday, Haney said “finally.”

“It shouldn’t have taken this long,” Haney said. “But we need more than just new leadership at (Public Works), we also need a fully independent investigation and broader reform of this broken, unaccountable department that has failed to keep our streets clean.”

Since Nuru and Bovis were arrested late last month, more schemes have surfaced and names have emerged that have broadened the scope of the scandal.

The airport commissioner described — but not named — in a federal complaint against Nuru, who he attempted to bribe, was revealed to be Linda Crayton. She resigned on Jan. 29, following that revelation. A high-ranking transportation official also named in the complaint was revealed to be Mark Zabaneh, director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, who has director oversight over the Transbay Transit Center.

A well known permit expediter, Walter Wong, also had his offices searched by the FBI, and appears to be connected to a developer described but not named in the complaint.

And, as this columnist revealed last week, Bovis, the restaurateur, took donations into his Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation for Kids — a charity — and used that funding to pay for a Public Works holiday party enjoyed by Nuru and other high-ranking staff.

It’s likely more dominoes will continue to fall in this ever-widening scandal.

While Nuru’s ouster may calm some critics eager to see Mayor Breed cull more corruption from within city government, questions about Nuru’s pension remain.

Nuru earned $323,732 in 2018, which includes benefits, according to the website Transparent California. Under the city charter, a city employee can only lose their pension if they’re convicted of a crime of “moral turpitude.” Nuru has not been convicted of the crimes he stands accused of.

The only law in the city charter allowing pensions to be revoked comes courtesy of Proposition C, which was approved by voters in 2008.

And the author of Prop. C? Sean Elsbernd, a former member of the Board of Supervisors, who is currently serving as Breed’s chief of staff. The measure was also backed by the late Mayor Ed Lee.

Without Prop. C, there’d likely be no chance to yank Nuru’s pension at all.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

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