Ethics Commission

Hearing Room Photo Credit: Steven Massey - CC

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Public service that builds public trust.

About the Ethics Commission

The San Francisco Ethics Commission was created directly by the City’s voters with the passage of Proposition K in November 1993. Through its staff, the Commission is responsible for the independent and impartial administration and enforcement of laws related to campaign finance, public financing of candidates, governmental ethics, conflicts of interests, and registration and reporting by lobbyists, campaign consultants, permit consultants, and major developers.

Our mission is to practice and promote the highest standards of integrity in government. We achieve that by delivering impactful programs that promote fair, transparent, and accountable governmental decision making for the benefit of all San Franciscans. Public service is a public trust, and our aim is to ensure that San Franciscans can have confidence that the operations of the City and County and the decisions made by its officials and employees are fair, just, and made without any regard to private or personal gain.

Programs and Divisions

Engagement and Compliance

As part of its duty to promote governmental accountability, the Ethics Commission provides information and guidance to city officers and employees, candidates for public office, the public, and others to help them understand and comply with their responsibilities under the law. The Engagement and Compliance Division publishes compliance materials and provides informal advice that applies the City’s ethics, campaign finance, and lobbying laws 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.

Enforcement

To fulfill the Ethics Commission’s oversight mandate as an independent administrative enforcement agency, the Enforcement Division is charged with ensuring fair, thorough, and timely investigations and case outcomes that serve as an effective deterrent and promote accountability in government. The Division has responsibility to identify, investigate, and remedy unlawful conduct within the scope of the Commission’s jurisdiction. The Division’s four investigators are responsible for investigating alleged violations of the law to ensure allegations are fully and objectively evaluated and that those who violate the law are held publicly accountable for their actions. This can include imposition of monetary penalties levied by the five-member Ethics Commission as provided for under the law.

Electronic Disclosure and Data Analysis

The Electronic Disclosure and Data Analysis (EDDA) Division develops integrated technology solutions to support the Commission’s various programs. The Division maintains the electronic disclosure platforms for campaign finance, lobbyist, Form 700, and other filings. The Division also ensures that the public has complete and timely access to the disclosures, such as through the campaign finance data dashboards and the City’s open data portal.

Policy

The Policy Division leads the Commission’s public policy research, analysis, and legislative work. It is responsible for analyzing how well current laws and programs are achieving their intended purposes and formulating new regulatory and legislative approaches to ensure the City’s political reform laws are strong, workable, and enforceable. Related duties assigned to the Division include media relations, interpreting and advising on the law, and stakeholder outreach and engagement. The Division also administers the Commission’s opinion and waiver programs.

Audits

To help fulfill the Ethics Commission’s oversight function, the Audit Division is responsible for conducting campaign audits pursuant to the Commission’s Charter authority and mandate under City law to determine whether committees have materially complied with applicable requirements of State and local laws. The Division also administers the Public Campaign Financing Program qualification and claim review process to determine candidate eligibility and public funds disbursements. In addition, the Audit Division is responsible for conducting audits required under City law related to the lobbyist registration and reporting and for conducting post-filing compliance reviews of other disclosures, such as public economic interest filings by City officials.

Impartiality

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.

Additionally, the 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.

Commissioners

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.

Meetings

Please visit the Commission’s meetings page for information about past and future meetings.

Racial Equity Plan

See the Commission’s Racial Equity Plan page for information about the Commission’s departmental Racial Equity Action Plan.
 

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