Complaints are the primary mechanism that violations of law related to City campaigns, lobbying, conflict of interest, or open government are brought to the attention of the Ethics Commission. The Enforcement Director may also initiate investigations.
Anyone who suspects a violation of these laws should prepare and submit a complaint with the Enforcement Division. A matter will be fully investigated when the Enforcement Director has reason to believe a violation may have occurred. Investigations shall be conducted in a confidential manner (SF Charter section C3.699-13(a)). A complainant is not a party to the enforcement matter. Although a complainant may have relevant information or be called as a witness, the Ethics Commission does not enforce violations of law on behalf of the complainant and the complainant has no right to be apprised of a complaint’s status.
The Commission may generally impose fines of up to $5,000 for each violation, although fines may be higher in some circumstances. Violations of all applicable laws are also punishable with orders to cease and desist certain activity, to file certain reports, and to pay up to three times the amount unlawfully contributed, spent, or unreported.
For additional details concerning the enforcement process, you may consult the Ethics Commission’s Enforcement Regulations, in addition to the materials on this website.