Ethics Commission
City and County of San Francisco

Ethics Commission

Hearing Room Photo Credit: Steven Massey - CC

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Serving the Public and City Employees and Officers Through Education & Enforcement of Ethics Laws

What is the Ethics Commission?

The Ethics Commission was established by San Francisco voters with passage of Proposition K on the November 1993 ballot. The Commission is composed of five members, one each appointed by the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, the Assessor-Recorder, the City Attorney and the District Attorney. Commission members are appointed to serve one six-year term of office.

The Ethics Commission serves the public, City employees and officials, and local candidates through education and enforcement of governmental ethics laws, including public information, reports and advice; campaign disclosure and economic interests filings; lobbyist and campaign consultant registration and reporting; public financing for City campaigns; audits, investigations and enforcement.

As part of its duty to promote governmental accountability, the Ethics Commission provides information and guidance to city officers and employees, the public, and others to help them understand and comply with their responsibilities under the law.  As part of its duties the Commission conducts briefing sessions on the law and provides written informal and formal advice that applies the City’s ethics, campaign finance, and lobbying laws and disclosure requirements to circumstances faced in practice.

The Commission also acts as filing officer for a wide range of public disclosure statements filed by designated local officials, candidates seeking local office, and lobbyists who seek to influence governmental decisions in the city and County of San Francisco. In addition, the Commission conducts audits of campaign and lobbying statements and provides open access to information reported on these filings.

To help ensure local ethics laws are strong and effective, the Commission also analyzes policy issues, evaluates how policies work in practice, and develops legislative proposals.

Based on its duties under the City Charter, the Ethics Commission also has authority to confidentially and independently investigate matters alleging violations of the laws within its jurisdiction, and to assess penalties for failure to abide by requirements of those laws when the facts warrant it.

To help ensure the Ethics Commission impartially implements and enforces the laws in its jurisdiction, the voters placed broad restrictions on the political activities of Ethics Commissioners and staff. During their tenure, Commission members and staff may not participate in any campaign supporting or opposing a candidate for City elective office, a City ballot measure, or a City officer running for any elective office. In addition, Commissioners and staff are prohibited from holding any other city or county office and from being an officer of a political party; and from being, or being employed by, or receiving gifts or compensation from a registered lobbyist or campaign consultant.

The Commission meets regularly on the third Friday of each month at 2:00 p.m. in Room 416 at City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place.

Members of the Ethics Commission

The Commission is composed of five members, one each appointed by the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, the Assessor-Recorder, the City Attorney and the District Attorney.

Mission of the Ethics Commission

As stated in the Article II of the Ethics Commission By-Laws, the Mission of the Commission is to practice and promote the highest standards of ethical behavior in government. In order to accomplish this mission, the Commission:

  1. clearly informs candidates for public office, public employees, and other officials and members of the public of existing ethics laws and rules
  2. actively enforces all ethics laws and rules, including campaign finance and open government laws
  3. recommends new laws, rules and programs that will lead to ethics compliance
  4. serves as a model for other elected and appointed officials and government employees
  5. faithfully adheres to its own Code of Ethics

Code of Ethics

In 1996, the Ethics Commission established a Code of Ethics in Article XI of its By-Laws. Through this Code, the Commission commits itself to setting the highest standards of conduct, including the appearance of propriety in the operation of government, and to assure public confidence in governing institutions, by:

  • encouraging and promoting integrity in government by education and example
  • fairly and objectively enforcing the City’s ethics laws and regulations
  • being accountable for its rules of procedure and decisions, and stimulating accountability of all elected and appointed officials and government employees
  • creating reform within the political process to ensure fair and equitable consideration to public policy issues
  • treating all staff, members of the public, and colleagues with courtesy, respect, objectivity and fairness
  • assuring honesty in all matters that come before the Commission, both individually and collectively
  • conducting all business in a timely manner and in public meetings, with full disclosure of policies, procedures, and decision-making processes, except in those matters as specified by the Brown Act and the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance that may be handled in closed session
  • reviewing its actions, recommendations, and procedures periodically to determine if the Commission has adhered to its Code of Ethics and Mission in all respects.

Statement of Incompatible Activities

Ethics Commission’s Statement of Incompatible Activities is intended to guide officers and employees about the kinds of activities that are incompatible with their public duties and therefore prohibited.

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