Mayor London Breed exhibited a serious lapse of judgment — and possibly violated city ethics laws — in accepting several thousand dollars worth of car-related expenses from former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru.

a person posing for the camera: Mayor London Breed speaks to the Chronicle editorial board on Wednesday, October 2, 2019 in San Francisco,  CA.© Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle 2019 Mayor London Breed speaks to the Chronicle editorial board on…

The mayor attempted to rationalize the arrangement by revealing in an online post that they were longtime friends, and had even dated briefly two decades ago, and the gift was in the context of that friendship.


However, their personal relationship is irrelevant to the issue at hand. The salient point is that Nuru was in charge of a large and highly visible city operation with 1,200 employees. Breed is the mayor. It is simply improper for a mayor to accept something of value from a department head whose $273,000-a-year position is contingent, in part, on her approval of his performance.

Still, Breed should not be taking gifts of value from any city employee, regardless of friendship.

She declined to go into detail about why she would allow thousands of dollars to go into car repairs for an aging vehicle — especially when, as mayor, the city provides her with a driver. “I’m not trying to make excuses for something I didn’t handle well,” she said.

Breed was asked point blank if she had received anything else of value from Nuru: “No,” she replied.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the reaction of the mayor’s critics on the Board of Supervisors has raced ahead of the facts at hand. Supervisor Hillary Ronen immediately called for Breed’s resignation, suggesting that it would be wrong to “call out Trump for his corruption” while accepting it in San Francisco.

Breed said she would not resign — and noted that Ronen voted for Mark Farrell over her for interim mayor in January 2018 even though he had been accused of campaign finance violations in his 2016 race for supervisor. He ended up settling for a $25,000 fine.

“Talk about the hypocrisy that continues with her,” Breed said of Ronen. “It’s just insane.”

In her blog post, Breed acknowledged that she may be “weighed down from guilt by association as a result of this episode.” Nuru recently resigned his post after being arrested on federal fraud charges. That corruption scandal has rocked City Hall and led to calls — including from Breed — for wider investigations of City Hall practices.