Stop me if this sounds familiar.
Mohammed Nuru / ‘Mr. Clean’ tackles S.F.’s dirtiest street / Daily hosings with disinfectant
That’s a story from 2001. Nuru was a protege of Willie Brown. He was a deputy back then, but these days, he’s Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru.
“If anyone wants to work with the homeless, it’s me. I care. You have to understand, I was raised in a village,” Nuru said about growing up in Nigeria. “I learned that life is not about money.”
Nuru, 39, was born in England but raised on his father’s farms in Nigeria, where they grew corn, rice and fruit.
And it’s a long way from there to trying and failing to clean up San Francisco. Year after year. Scandal after scandal.
Some staffers complained that Nuru, paid $150,867 a year, bent civil service rules to replace city workers with trainees from the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners, or SLUG, the nonprofit he formerly ran.
Critics said that while he was a city official he pushed to extend SLUG’s $1 million-per-year city grant for street-cleaning, and he allowed the nonprofit to charge the city thousands for unusual expenses: $75,000 for a double-wide trailer, $25,000 for overalls and baseball caps, $1,400 in consulting fees to a member of the SLUG board.
Once, Nuru allegedly ordered a DPW crew – at a cost to the public of $40,000 – to clean up a debris-strewn vacant lot near his home in Bayview- Hunters Point. Recently he was involved in requesting $70,000 in city funds to landscape another vacant lot in his neighborhood, city records show.
Some veteran DPW bureaucrats filed formal complaints, saying that when they objected to carrying out Nuru’s orders, they were demoted or transferred.
Their complaints were made to the city attorney, then-District Attorney Terence Hallinan, and Public Works Director Ed Lee, among others, records show. The city never formally responded to the allegations, and no agency gave any indication it was interested in investigating, the complainants said.
Ed Lee seemed good with Nuru. So is Breed. Even though the scandals hadn’t stopped.
Battle said she, too, was the target of derogatory remarks from Nuru because of her gender and race and that Nuru had encouraged others not to speak to her. The lawsuit claimed he told her on various instances she “needed to know her place and show proper respect,” and she needed to be “kept in check.”
She was eventually fired after Nuru had a meeting with Reiskin and Lee, according to the lawsuit.
Nuru did not comment on the allegations of the lawsuit. A settlement of $105,000 was approved by the Board of Supervisors in February and the case can no longer go to court.
“All the facts and allegations in the lawsuit are true,” said Battle’s attorney, Waukeen McCoy. “I’m surprised that he would be promoted.”
That was 2011.
Nuru keeps promising to clean up San Francisco, but “Mr. Clean” never does.