DPW Director Mohammed Nuru Removed from Post

by TJ Johnston

On January 26th the U.S. Department of Justice arrested Mohammed Nuru, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Works, on charges of honest services wire fraud in an alleged bribery scheme involving a member of the City’s Airport Commission. He had also arrested five days earlier for disclosing the investigation and then lying about it to the FBI. Nuru was arraigned and released on a $2 million bond, and is on administrative leave from his post.

The criminal complaint also names Nick James Bovis, a restaurateur who owns Lefty O’Doul’s, the Gold Dust Lounge and The Broadway Grill. It also enumerated five separate schemes involving Nuru and Bovis.

While authorities attention to the case focused on the attempt to bribe an unnamed airport commissioner, the complaint also alleges that Nuru provided Bovis inside information on City projects on portable bathroom trailers and tiny housing units so that contracted would be awarded to Tiny Potties, a business Bovis owns. It details conversations where Nuru urged Bovis and Public Works staff to contact him at his personal email, covering up any contact from public records laws and avoid any real competitive bidding.

Last year, homeless advocates protested outside the department’s storage yard for allowing employees to trash unhoused people’s survival gear and prized possessions during encampment sweeps. Nuru denied that the employees flouted his department’s policy of “bagging and tagging” the property of homeless people. Despite ample recorded evidence of City employees disposing property and disregarding its own rules, the department continues this practice, and Mayor London Breed asserts that the City doesn’t sweep encampments.

Nuru and Bovis’ next court appearance will be on February 6.