In September 2018, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopted and the Mayor signed into law a new set of provisions in the City’s Administrative Code to enact certain public disclosure requirements and late fee and penalty provisions for candidates and third-parties that spend money in connection with the election of individuals to boards that are entrusted with administration of the following systems on behalf of the City and County of San Francisco:
- Employees Retirement System Board (“Retirement Board”)
- Health Service System Retirement Board (“Health Service Board”)
- Retiree Health Care Trust Fund Board (“Retiree Health Care Trust Fund Board”)
For purposes of these new public disclosure laws, these board elections are referred to collectively as “Trustee Elections.” The new law charges the San Francisco Ethics Commission with authority to enforce the related disclosure requirements.
In adopting these new requirements, the Board of Supervisors found that members of the City and County retirement and health service systems have an interest in knowing who has spent significant amounts of money to support or oppose candidates for election to these trustee board elections; that increased transparency in the election process would benefit members in selecting a candidate to represent their interests on these boards; and that information about persons or entities who are spending significant funds to support or oppose candidates will aid members’ voting decisions. SF Administrative Code Sec. 16.550 (d).
The summary information provided below is designed to help those who are subject to this law with tools and information necessary to comply with its provisions. Information about where the public can access and review these disclosures is also provided below.
NOTICE REQUIRED BY A COVERED BOARD HOLDING A TRUSTEE ELECTION
Admin. Code Sec. 16.553
Notice of applicable campaign disclosure requirements set forth in Sec. 16.553-1, 16.553-2, 16.553-3, and 16.553-4 must be provided to members and retired members of the covered retirement and health system by the Retirement Board, Health Service Board, or Retiree Health Care Trust Fund Board with notice of any election to those boards. What the public disclosure reporting laws require:
DISCLOSURES REQUIRED BY CANDIDATES SEEKING ELECTION TO A COVERED BOARD
Admin. Code Sec. 16.553-1
Admin. Code Sec. 16.553-2
Candidate Intention Statement
A public statement of intent must be filed with the Ethics Commission by any candidate seeking election to the board of any of the covered retirement or health systems. The statement is required to be signed under penalty of perjury in a manner specified, and on a form provided, by the Ethics Commission.
Statement of Economic Interests (Form 700)
No later than the filing of the Candidate Intention Statement, each candidate must submit to the Ethics Commission a financial disclosure filing known as a Statement of Economic Interests, or “Form 700.” The types of economic interests required to be disclosed in this public filing by candidates are the same as those required to be disclosed by officers holding a position on the covered board, which are established under the law in the City’s Conflict of Interests Code. Specifically, each candidate seeking office to one of the covered boards is identified as a “Category 1” filer and must report under the broadest disclosure category as follows:
- Disclosure Category 1 – Persons in this category shall disclose income (including gifts) from any source, interests in real property, investments, and all business positions in which the designated employee is a director, officer, partner, trustee, employee, or holds any position of management. C&GCC Sec. 3.1-107.
- NOTE: The law provides that this filing is not required by a candidate if the individual has filed a Form 700 at Disclosure Category 1 with the Ethics Commission within the previous 90 days.
Initial Statement of Organization
Candidates must file an Initial Statement of Organization with the Ethics Commission to publicly disclose the following information:
Campaign Bank Account
Upon the filing of an Initial Statement of Organization, the candidate “shall establish or identify” one campaign bank account, at an office of a financial institution located in San Francisco, into which all contributions made to the candidate or a person on behalf of the candidate, must be deposited. All expenditures made by the candidate in support of the candidate’s election to the covered board must be made from this account. Admin. Code Sec. 16.553-2(b)(1)
For purposes of disclosure requirements that apply in Trustee Elections, a mass mailing is the same as that term is defined in the California Political Reform Act (CA Government Code Section 81000 et seq.) provided that the mass mailing advocates for or against one or more candidates for one of the covered retirement or health system board. Admin. Code Sec. 16.553-2(c)
Submission of Mass Mailing and Itemized Disclosure
Candidates that pay for a mass mailing must file a copy of the mass mailing and an itemized disclosure statement Form SFEC 161 with the Ethics Commission within five working days after the distribution of the mailing. Within the 16 days before a covered board’s election, however candidates that pay for a mass mailing must file a copy of the mass mailing and the itemized disclosure within 48 hours of the date of its distribution.
Disclaimers Must Appear on Mass Mailings
Candidates for a covered board that pay for certain advertisements – including mass mailings, door hangers, flyers, posters, over-sized campaign buttons, bumper stickers, or print advertisements – must include the following disclaimer statements printed in at least 14-point bold font:
“Paid for by _______ (committee name)” and
“Financial disclosures are available at sfethics.org.”
Campaign Statement Filings
Candidates must file public disclosure statements with the Ethics Commission that detail their campaign fundraising and expenditure activities. Candidates are responsible for filing these statements with the Ethics Commission until they file a termination statement with the Commission per Admin. Code Sec. 16.553-2(b):
DISCLOSURES REQUIRED BY INDIVIDUALS OR ENTITIES ENGAGED IN THIRD-PARTY SPENDING TO SUPPORT OR OPPOSE A CANDIDATE SEEKING ELECTION TO A COVERED BOARD
Admin. Code Sec. 16.553-3
To provide transparency about persons and entities that spend significant amounts of money to support or oppose candidates for election to a covered board, certain public disclosure reporting is required by third-party spenders.
Initial Statement of Organization
Any person or entity that makes independent expenditures totaling $1,000 or more in a calendar year to support or oppose a candidate or candidates for election to a covered board, or makes contributions totaling $1,000 or more to a candidate or a committee required to file disclosures as a candidate to a covered board must file an initial statement of organization with the Ethics Commission.
An “independent expenditure” means an expenditure made in connection with a communication which expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate for a covered board but that is not made to or at the behest of the affected candidate or committee.
Campaign Bank Account
Upon the filing of an initial statement of organization, the filer “shall establish or identify” one campaign bank account, at an office of financial institution located in San Francisco, into which all contributions made to the filer or to a person on behalf of the filer shall be deposited. Any funds spent in support of or opposition to the election of the candidate must be deposited in this account prior to expenditure. All expenditures made by the filer in support of or opposition to the election of the candidate must be made from this account.
Filings by Third-Party Spenders
Any person subject to filing an initial Statement of Organization for making third-party independent expenditures to support or oppose a candidate for election to a covered board must file public disclosure statements with the Ethics Commission that detail their campaign fundraising and expenditure activities as noted below. Filers are responsible for submitting these statements with the Ethics Commission until they file a termination statement with the Commission.
Disclaimers Must Appear on Campaign Ads
Candidates for a covered board that pay for certain advertisements – including mass mailings, door hangers, flyers, posters, oversized campaign buttons, bumper stickers, or print advertisements – must include the following disclaimer statements printed in at least 14-point bold font:
“Paid for by _______ (insert the name of the filer)” and “Financial disclosures are available at sfethics.org.”
For purposes of this requirement a mass mailing is the same as that term is defined in the California Political Reform Act (CA Government Code Section 81000 et seq.) provided that the mass mailing advocates for or against one or more candidates for one of the covered retirement or health system board.
Exception: Employee organizations that represent employees who are eligible to benefit from the Retirement System. Health Service System or Retiree Health Care Trust Fund are subject to these disclosure and disclaimer requirements provided that an employee organization whose communications are directed solely to its own members shall not be required to
disclose copies of those communications or include any disclaimers on communications to its members.
ETHICS COMMISSION MANDATES:
TRAINING, AUDITS, SUBPOENAS, ENFORCEMENT AND PENALTIES.
Admin. Code Sec. 16.553-4
Training for Candidates
Each candidate for election to a covered board must complete a training program conducted or sponsored by the Ethics Commission within one year prior to any election for the office sought by the candidate.
Late Filing Fees
In addition to any other penalty, any person who files a paper copy of any statement required by Sections 16.553-1, 16.553-2, and 16.553-3 after the deadline is liable in the amount of $10 per day after the deadline until the statement is filed. Any statement required to be filed electronically filed late will be assessed a $25 per day late fee. The late filing liability imposed may not exceed the cumulative amount stated in the late statement, or $100, whichever is greater. The Ethics Commission’s Executive Director may reduce or waive a late filing fee imposed if the Commission determines that the late filing was not willful, and that enforcement will not further the purposes of the law.
Audits and Retention of Records
The Executive Director of the Ethics Commission may initiate audits of any candidate or any person who made independent expenditures in support of or opposition to any candidate.
All candidates and persons who are required to file statements under Sections 16.553-1, 16.553-2, and 16.553-3 are required to maintain detailed accounts, records, bills, and receipts as necessary to prepare those statements for a period of four years following the election for which they filed those statements.
Any person who intentionally or negligently violates Sections 16.553-1, 16.553-2, and 16.553-3 shall be liable in an administrative proceeding before the Ethics Commission and be held liable for any penalties authorized under the Charter.
Statute of Limitations
Ethics Commission investigations must be commenced within four years after the date on which the violation occurred. Provision of False or Misleading Information to the Ethics Commission: Withholding of Information. Any person who knowingly or willfully furnishes false or fraudulent evidence, documents, or information to the Ethics Commission under these laws, or misrepresents any material fact, or conceals any evidence, documents, or information, or fails to furnish to the Ethics Commission any records, documents, or other information required to be provided is subject to the administrative enforcement penalties provided under Administrative Code Subsection 16.553-4(c).
The Executive Director of the Ethics Commission may issue subpoenas in furtherance of her duties under the Chapter including, but not limited to, audits and enforcement of its provisions.