Ethics Commission
City and County of San Francisco

2019 Changes to Ethics Laws Discussed in the AB1234 Interactive Ethics Training

Gift Limit

On January 1, 2019, the gift limit increased from $470 to $500 from a single reportable source in a calendar year.

Recusal Due to a Conflict of Interest

If you are a board member or commissioner, in addition to abstaining, at any public meeting where your board or commission discusses an item for which you have a conflict of interest, you must:

  • publicly identify the circumstances requiring recusal from the matter;
  • leave the room until after the matter is concluded; and
  • file a notice with the Ethics Commission within 15 days. You must still file that notice even if you were not present at the meeting where recusal would have been required.

Use of Public Position

City elected officers and members of boards and commissions are prohibited from using their public positions to seek or obtain anything of value for the private or professional benefit of themselves, their immediate families, or any organizations with which they are associated.

An official is “associated” with an organization if the official or an immediate family member is an employee, agent, director, officer, or trustee, or owns or controls at least 10% of the equity in the organization.

For example, if a commissioner is on the board of directors of a nonprofit organization, the official cannot use his or her City position or title to fundraise for that organization.

Contributions from Contractors

As the video explains, an elected official may not solicit or accept campaign contributions from someone who is seeking to contract with the City if the elected official sits on a Board that must approve the contract.  Before a recent change to the law, the prohibition ended when the contract negotiations end, or, if the contract was approved, six months after approval.  Under a recent change to the law, the prohibition now continues until twelve months after approval.

Running for Office While Serving on a Board or Commission

Appointed members of boards, commissions and other decision-making bodies established by the City’s Charter may not run for State or local elective office during their tenures.

Those officials immediately and automatically lose their appointed positions upon filing a declaration of candidacy with the Department of Elections for any State elective office, any City elective office, Board of Education, Governing Board of the Community College District, or Bay Area Rapid Transit Board of Directors.

Behested Payments

A behested payment is a donation for legislative, governmental or charitable purposes made at the request or suggestion of a City official.  Payments to the City from either nonprofit organizations or private sources can be behested payments.

The Behested Payment Rule for Elected Officials

Under State law, elected officials must file a public report disclosing behested payments of $5,000 or more from a single source in a calendar year.  These payments are not subject any limits but must be publicly disclosed.  Any additional behested payments in the same calendar year from the same source trigger further reports.  To satisfy the reporting requirement, the elected official must file a form – called the FPPC Form 803 – with the official’s department within 30 days of the date of the donation.  The completed Form 803 must then be forwarded to the Ethics Commission, which posts these reports on its website.

The Behested Payment Rule for Other City Officials

A different rule applies to both elected officials and members of City boards and commissions who file Form 700s with the Ethics Commission.

For those officials, behested payments must be reported if the official solicits the payments from a party or participant in a proceeding before a commission on which the official sits, regarding administrative enforcement, a license, a permit, or other entitlement for use.

In such proceedings, the official must file a report if the party or participant donates $1,000 or more either (a) while the proceeding is pending, (b) during the six months following the date a final decision is rendered in the proceeding, or (c) during the 12 months prior to the commencement of a proceeding.

Officials must report these behested payments to the Ethics Commission within 30 days of the date of the behested payment.

Additional Reporting Requirements for Behested Payments

There are also reporting requirements that apply to parties that make certain behested payments.

If a party makes $10,000 or more in behested payments in a calendar year, the party must file a form with the Ethics Commission within 30 days.

Whenever a City elected official or member of a City board or commission solicits a behested payment that is subject to reporting, the official must notify the solicited person that the person might be subject to these reporting requirements.

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