Ethics Commission
City and County of San Francisco

Compliance

Individuals and entities participating in political and governmental activities in San Francisco are subject to a number of state and local laws relating to campaigns, lobbying, conflicts of interest, and open government.

Providing assistance to those who are subject to these laws to heighten awareness and promote compliance is one of the primary duties of the San Francisco Ethics Commission. To support accountability in government through an informed public, the Commission also acts as a resource to the public to broadly advocate understanding of the City’s ethics laws and their purpose.

Publications and Guides

Guide BookThe Commission has developed a number of detailed guides for members of the public and City officers and employees that explain the laws it administers and enforces.

These materials generally address the following areas:

The Ethics Commission’s Education & Compliance Division is the point of primary contact for information and compliance guidance for all laws within the Commission’s jurisdiction. Staff are available to provide information to the public about the City’s ethics, campaign and lobbying laws, both about their purpose and how they apply in practical terms. The staff can also provide compliance guidance on public disclosure, filing, and other requirements to city officials and employees, candidates, lobbyists, and others. Informational sessions and refresher training on the laws and their requirements are also available. Filers who fail to file timely statements are subject to late fees.

Informal and Formal Advice

Persons seeking guidance from the Commission about their duties with respect to the City’s laws relating to ethics, campaign finance, or lobbying apply to them may request advice from the Commission.

The Ethics Commission provides two kinds of advice: written formal opinions and informal advice. Written formal opinions are available to persons who request Commission advice about their responsibilities under local laws.  Formal advice can be provided when a requester provides facts about specific circumstances they are facing. These formal opinions provide the requester with immunity from subsequent enforcement if the materials facts are as stated in the advice request, and if the City Attorney and District Attorney concur in the advice.

Informal advice does not provide similar protection as it is provided regarding hypothetical facts or when a specific situation is not described.

While advice may be informal or formal, it always addresses only the requestor’s prospective actions – that is, before a requestor acts. Advice cannot be provided after-the-fact, and the Commission does not provide advice regarding the past or potential actions of someone other than the requestor.

Written advice of the Ethics Commission are public records and can be viewed online.

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