S.F. Mayor Breed to be fined $22,000 for series of 'significant' ethics violations while in office


San Francisco Mayor London Breed has agreed to pay a $22,792 city fine for a series of ethics violations while in office, which involve her asking former Gov. Jerry Brown to release her brother from prison, allowing the disgraced former head of Public Works Mohammed Nuru to pay her car repair bill and failing to properly report a 2015 campaign contribution.

The proposed agreement from the city’s Ethics Commission, obtained by the Chronicle, said Breed’s violations are “significant” and involve the misuse of her title as mayor for personal gain, and also violate the city’s laws on accepting gifts from subordinates and campaign contributions.

The fine puts a spotlight on the mayor’s personal and political dealings, as she tries to steer the city through a particularly challenging and uncertain time in the pandemic. It also comes as City Hall tries to recover from a series of scandals that spotlighted the cozy — and allegedly corrupt — relationships in local government. Breed has tried to distance herself from the fallout, and has instead tried to focus on the city’s recovery.

Breed signed the agreement Monday and said the terms were “fair.” If approved by the Ethics Commission at its next meeting on Aug. 13, the mayor will personally pay the fine.

“While nothing stipulated here had any effect on my decision-making as mayor, it is important that as mayor that I lead by example and take responsibility for my actions,” Breed said in a Tuesday statement. “I’ve learned a lot over the last two years since the most recent of these events took place, and I’ve learned from this process.”

The settlement comes nearly three years after Breed and a number of family members sent a letter to former Gov. Jerry Brown, asking him to “consider leniency” and release her brother, Napoleon Brown, from prison. Brown has served about two decades of a 44-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter and armed robbery.

In the Oct. 23, 2018 letter, Breed said her brother’s punishment had been excessive and he turned his life around in prison. A number of family members sent similar letters of support as part of the application to have his sentence commuted.

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Multiple attorneys and government ethics experts previously told The Chronicle that Breed did not appear to violate and state or city laws. But the fact that the letter contained “Mayor London Breed” in block letters at the top — and also referenced her status as the city’s mayor in the body of the letter — raised questions about whether she was trying to influence the governor’s decision.

The former governor ultimately did not pardon Breed’s brother, who remains in prison. Still, the Ethics Commission said the mayor’s letter was a misuse of her city title.

“By referencing her official position as mayor in making an appeal on a matter of personal interest, Breed violated a city law prohibiting the use of city titles for non-city purposes,” the stipulation said.

She will be fined $2,500 for the letter.

Marc Zilversmit, Brown’s attorney, said he disagreed with the ethics fine and that he “perfectly understands” why Breed would advocate for her brother. Zilversmit said he is considering how to use some recent sentencing reforms in California to try to obtain a r... (Read more)

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