July 1, 1999 – June 30, 2000
The Ethics Commission is pleased to present this report on the progress and accomplishments of its fifth year to the Mayor, Board of Supervisors, and citizens of San Francisco.
Isabella H. Grant
Highlights of the Fifth Year
The Ethics Commission serves the public, City employees, elected and appointed officials, and candidates for public office through education and enforcement of ethics laws. Its duties include: serving as filing officer for campaign finance disclosure statements; auditing campaign finance statements for compliance with State and local laws; administering the City's laws regulating lobbyists and campaign consultants; investigating complaints alleging violations of the City's ethics laws; administering the Whistleblower program; serving as filing officer for financial disclosure statements filed by certain City officers and employees; educating City officials and the public; researching and proposing ethics-related policy changes, and providing advice.
Fiscal year 1999-2000 has been a year of significant accomplishment for the Ethics Commission. During this period the Commission:
· Submitted a comprehensive campaign finance reform measure for the November 2000 ballot that was approved by the voters. The measure, Proposition O, provides for partial public financing of supervisorial election campaigns, new contribution limits, and increased financial disclosure.
· Provided advice and analyses to City officers, City employees and members of the public on legislation concerning public financing of political campaigns, spending limits in supervisorial races, contribution restrictions for City contractors, false endorsements on campaign materials, and consolidation of City ethics ordinances;
· Enhanced its on-line program for filing campaign finance statements to ensure compatibility with state filing formats; and surveyed lobbyists and campaign consultants to determine their needs for a future on-line filing program;
· Administered multiple reporting requirements for candidates, political committees, campaign consultants, lobbyists, and City officials;
· Conducted full political audits of ten campaign finance committees for accuracy and legal compliance;
· Investigated complaints alleging violation of ethics laws, operated a whistleblower hotline, and issued advice letters interpreting ethics laws and regulations;
· Conducted numerous public forums instructing regulated individuals and organizations on how to meet reporting requirements;
· Implemented provisions of the City's new Sunshine Ordinance;
· Supported efforts in other jurisdictions at campaign reform consistent with City policy; provided court testimony for the California Fair Political Practices Commission on behalf of Proposition 208; advised official foreign visitors about governmental ethics in San Francisco; and demonstrated on-line technology for other filing agencies; and
· Enforced ethics-related laws through assessment and collection of $43,345 in registration fees, late fines and settlement of complaints.
Mandates and Accomplishments of the Commission
During its fifth year of operation, the Ethics Commission made significant progress in fulfilling its Charter mandates.
The Commission administers and enforces the City's Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance (San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code § 1.100 et seq.) ("CFRO"). The CFRO sets voluntary ceilings on campaign expenditures by candidates and imposes mandatory limits on contributions to candidates.
The Commission serves as filing officer for four categories of local candidates and committees: 1) candidates seeking election to local office and their controlled committees; 2) committees formed or existing primarily to support or oppose candidates seeking election to local office; 3) committees formed or existing primarily to support or oppose qualification or passage of a local ballot measure which is being voted on only in San Francisco; and 4) county general purpose committees active only in San Francisco.
As filing officer, the Commission encourages compliance by candidates and committees and maintains records of reports filed. It audits campaign statements to ensure compliance with applicable laws and imposes penalties for failure to adhere to filing deadlines and reporting requirements. It administers a strict policy for imposing fines in connection with late-filed campaign statements. This policy is distributed to all filers.
During this year, 183 candidates and campaign committees filed financial disclosure statements with the Ethics Commission. There were semiannual filings on July 31, 1999 and January 31, 2000, and pre-election filings on September 23 and October 21, 1999 (for the November 2, 1999 election). Additionally, there were 104 reports for late contributions during the two weeks prior to the November 1999 election.
During the year, the Commission achieved a record for providing public access to campaign finance information, posting all reports on its web site within 24 hours of their submission. Reports by candidates in the December 1999 run-off election for the offices of mayor and district attorney were posted within four hours.
New Initiative: Submission of Campaign Finance Ballot Measure
In June 2000, the Commission placed on the November 7, 2000 ballot a comprehensive campaign finance reform measure, the Fair Elections Ordinance, amending the CFRO. The measure, which appeared on the ballot as Proposition O, was approved by the voters. The new ordinance provides for partial public financing for candidates for the Board of Supervisors, establishes new limits on contributions to candidate committees and non-candidate committees (including committees that make independent expenditures), limits loans that candidates can make to their campaigns, and imposes additional disclosure requirements.
Following a resolution adopted by the Board of Supervisors in November 1999,1 the Commission submitted a proposal to the Board providing for public financing of election campaigns. After the Board rejected the Commission's proposal, the Commission voted to place a public financing initiative, which was amended to incorporate some of the concerns raised by Board members, on the ballot under its own authority. This marks the second time that the Commission has exercised its authority under the San Francisco Charter to submit a proposal directly to the voters. (Last year the voters approved the Commission's proposal for voluntary spending limits for candidates for the Board of Supervisors in district elections. See below.)
Prior to placing Proposition O on the ballot, the Commission conducted an exhaustive inquiry into public financing and other campaign finance issues. The Commission's extensive work on the measure endowed commissioners and staff with improved expertise that has strengthened the Commission's ability to serve the public. The Commission held two special hearings in December and took testimony at its regularly scheduled meetings from candidates, public officials, campaign treasurers, and governmental and academic experts. Witnesses testified about public financing programs around the nation and legislative options for San Francisco. Commissioners and staff solicited additional input in numerous conversations with community members, City staff and campaign finance authorities from around the country.
Staff research into policy questions was reflected in detailed written reports to the Commission – all publicly available – and in the draft legislation approved by the Commission and forwarded to the Board. Public interest and press coverage of the Commission's five-month process and the Board's deliberations were substantial.
Under the measure, each general election candidate for the Board of Supervisors who raises a threshold amount of $7,500 in private funds and meets certain other qualifying criteria is eligible for an initial grant of $5,000. The candidate then receives four dollars in matching funds for each of the next $5,000 that he or she raises in private contributions. Thereafter, the candidate receives dollar-for-dollar matching funds for each dollar privately raised, up to a maximum of $43,750 of public funds. Candidates who qualify for a run-off receive an initial $5,000; thereafter, they may receive four dollars of public funds for each dollar privately raised, up to a maximum of $17,000 of pubic funds. Candidates who receive public financing must agree to accept the $75,000 voluntary spending limit for the general election and $20,000 spending limit for the run-off election. They must also agree to debate their opponents.
The total annual cost of the program is limited to two dollars per City resident, or approximately $1.6 million per year. If budgetary appropriations fall short of providing sufficient funds to cover candidate grants and administrative costs for the program, the Commission may distribute available funds to candidates on a pro rata basis. The public financing provisions of the Ordinance will be implemented in advance of the next supervisorial election in November 2002. The contribution limits and other provisions will be implemented on January 1, 2000.
The measure limits contributions to candidates for City elective offices. An individual or entity could contribute:
_$500 to any candidate in a primary or general election with an aggregate total of $500 times the number of offices voted on in the primary or general election;
_$250 to any candidate in a run-off election with an aggregate total of $250 times the number of offices voted on in the run-off election; and
_$500 to any non-candidate committee (including committees that make independent expenditures) with an aggregate total of $3,000 per calendar year.
The measure changes the time when campaign spending limits may be lifted. Specifically, they will be lifted if: a candidate receives contributions, makes expenditures or has funds in his or her campaign trust account totaling 100 percent of the limit; or an independent expenditure committee spends 100 percent of the applicable spending limit in support of, or in opposition to, a candidate for the same office.
In addition, the measure imposes additional reporting requirements on both committees and candidates. These supplemental disclosures are needed to ensure orderly administration of the public financing program, to timely certify candidates as eligible to receive public funds, and to timely release candidates from their obligation to limit spending. The text of the new Ordinance and a detailed summary are available on the Commission's web site at www.sfgov.org/ethics/legislate.htm.
November 2000 District Election Spending Caps
As noted above, a Commission-sponsored ballot measure establishing a voluntary spending limit for candidates for the Board of Supervisors in district elections was approved by the voters in November 1999 and implemented in November 2000, when a related 1999 measure providing for district elections for the Board also took effect. The Commission's measure, Proposition K on the November1999 ballot, passed with nearly 80 percent of the vote. It set a voluntary spending limit in district general elections at $75,000. The limit for Citywide election of supervisors had been $250,000. The measure also established a voluntary cap of $20,000 for district run-off elections.2
Update on Other Initiatives
Political Contribution Blackout Period
A regulation proposed by the Commission to clarify the "blackout period" during which contractors are barred from making contributions to City officers took effect in July 1999. Under the CFRO, prospective contractors seeking business with the City cannot make contributions to City officers who have the power to approve the contract, candidates seeking election to such offices, and committees controlled by such officers and candidates "at any time between the commencement of negotiations and either the completion of, or the termination of, negotiations for such contract." Defining when negotiations have commenced or been completed or terminated – the points at which the negotiation period begins and ends – was essential to compliance with and enforcement of the law.
The regulation clarifies that "negotiations" begin when a prospective contractor first communicates with a City officer or employee–in person, by telephone, or in writing–about the possibility of obtaining a specific contract. Negotiations are "completed" when a contract is finalized and signed by the City and the contractor; and negotiations are "terminated" when the City and/or the prospective contractor ends the negotiation process before a final decision is made to award or not award the specific contract to the contractor. The regulation, which is posted on the Commission's web site, provides examples of communications that commence, or do not commence, negotiations. The Commission advised all department heads and member of boards and commissions about the new regulation.
The Commission's recommendation for an ordinance prohibiting false endorsements on campaign materials, approved by the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor in the last fiscal year, was implemented in FY 99-00. The Commission notified active San Francisco campaign committees about the new law.
Ongoing Campaign Finance Activities
To ensure that the public is fully informed about campaign activity, the California Political Reform Act of 1974 and the CFRO require candidates and committees supporting or opposing ballot measures to disclose campaign contributions and expenditures made in connection with a campaign. These disclosures are made through the filing of campaign finance statements.
The Commission serves as a filing officer for campaign finance statements filed by local candidates and committees. All local officeholders, candidates, and committees that support or oppose local candidates and ballot measures are required to file campaign statements at specified intervals, disclosing contributions received (including monetary and non-monetary contributions, loans and enforceable promises), expenditures made (including loans), unpaid bills and miscellaneous increases to cash. They must also keep detailed records of receipts and expenditures of $25 or more.
The Commission conducts full political audits of campaign disclosure statements in order to determine whether campaign committees, treasurers and candidates have complied with state and City campaign finance laws and regulations. The Commission helps to ensure compliance by making publicly available an audit manual outlining its process. Campaign committees are randomly selected for audit in each of five categories designated by level of financial activity. Selection is made in random drawings conducted at Commission meetings in public session.
The Commission conducted ten audits in FY 99-00.3 Commission staff audited two committees with financial activity over $400,000, and eight committees with activity at other levels (three in the over-$100,000 range, three in the over-$50,000 range, and two in the over-$20,000 range). One material finding was made with respect to a committee in the over-$500,000 range that failed to maintain copies of major donor notifications as required by state law. Audit reports are published on the Commission's web site at www.sfgov.org/ethics/auditprog.htm.
To ensure that campaign information is available quickly to assist voters in making informed electoral decisions, the San Francisco Electronic Filing Ordinance requires that certain campaign statements be filed electronically as well as on paper forms provided by the Fair Political Practices Commission. The City's pioneering On-Line Filing System (OLFS), designed and implemented for the Commission by the San Francisco Department of Telecommunications and Information Services (DTIS), provides a free, user-friendly mechanism for reporting contributions, expenditures, loans, and all other information required by state and local law. The Commission publishes this information on its Internet web site (www.sfgov.org/ethics/) as soon as it is received.
The system was revised in FY 99-00 to make it fully compatible with the State of California's new standardized CAL filing format. It was also upgraded by the addition of search and sort capabilities for the financial data posted on the Commission's web site. In addition, ongoing technical corrections were made to remedy user problems as they arose.
DTIS staff demonstrated the system to ethics professionals at the annual conference of the Council on Governmental Ethics laws in Providence, RI, from December 5-8, 1999. Commission staff also demonstrated the system to filing officers from around the state at a San Francisco conference of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, and traveled to Sacramento for a presentation requested by the California Secretary of State. The City of Sacramento expressed interest in adopting the system and began discussions with Commission staff on technical and licensing issues.
Staff also prepared and presented a series of workshops for campaign officials, reporters, and interested citizens explaining how to use OLFS. Presentations included distribution of specially prepared instructional materials. Feedback from the workshops was overwhelmingly positive.
During the year, 94 political committees filed a total of 168 electronic reports in accordance with the Electronic Filing Ordinance. Of these, 111 reports (66 percent) were filed using Commission software, 56 (33 percent) were filed using commercially available software, and one (1 percent) was filed on software created by a law firm. Electronic filings were down slightly from the previous year (178 electronic reports in FY 98-99) as a result of a lighter elections schedule, but use of Commission software increased from 36 percent in FY 98-99 to 66 percent in FY 99-00.
New Initiative: Electronic Filing for Lobbyists and Campaign Consultants
On April 20, 2000, the Commission, anticipating development of new technology to provide for faster public access to information filed by lobbyists and campaign consultants, proposed legislation to the Board of Supervisors authorizing the Commission to require electronic filing of lobbyist and campaign consultant disclosure statements. When implemented, the Commission's new online filing system will be available free of charge to filers. The system will automatically compile the information submitted by filers for quick and easy transfer to the Commission's quarterly reports summarizing lobbyist and campaign consultant statements received. The new technology will greatly expedite public access to this information and will save several weeks of staff time each year. Currently, the data from these statements is keyed into the summary reports by hand.4 Funding in the amount of $50,000 to develop the new on-line filing system was authorized last year.
Prior to submitting this ordinance, Commission staff surveyed campaign consultants and lobbyists to determine their computer capabilities, so that the new system would be as accessible and user friendly as possible. Survey results revealed sufficient levels of computer competence and provided staff with valuable information on users' technical assets, which will facilitate the preparation of both the technology and instructional materials.
Monitoring Spending Limits
The voluntary spending limits in the November 1999 elections for mayor and district attorney were lifted by operation of law when candidates in each race who had declined to accept the limits informed the Commission, as required, that they had received contributions exceeding 50 percent of the limit for the general election. Commission staff alerted all other candidates that the limits had been automatically lifted, and issued public announcements to that effect which received media coverage.
LOBBYIST REGISTRATION AND REGULATION
To protect public confidence in the responsiveness and representative nature of government officials and institutions, the Lobbyist Ordinance requires the registration of lobbyists and regular reporting of information concerning activity intended to influence local legislative or administrative action. The Commission reviews the statements to insure completeness and accuracy and assesses penalties for failure to adhere to filing deadlines and requirements.
Lobbyists are required to register if they engage in a certain threshold of lobbying activity. The threshold varies according to the types of lobbying engaged in, and is based on the number of City officers contacted and/or the amount of payments received or payments made. Persons who qualify as lobbyists are required to disclose on a quarterly basis which City officers or employees they contacted, the positions they advocated, and any campaign contributions or gifts they may have made. In addition, contract lobbyists are required to disclose the names of their clients and how much money they received from them. Lobbyists who advocate on their own behalf are required to disclose payments made for the purpose of influencing local legislative or administrative action. Statements filed by lobbyists are summarized by the Commission in quarterly summary reports, which are issued two to three weeks after lobbyist filings and posted on the Commission's web site.
Commission staff instructed lobbyists on how to comply with reporting requirements at four specially arranged workshops held during the year. Forty-seven lobbyists were registered with the City at the close of FY 99-00. The Commission collected $29,412 in lobbyist fees and fines for the year, for deposit in the City's General Fund.
During the year, the Commission, assisted by the City Attorney's Office, also prepared and issued new reporting forms for use by persons who lobby on behalf of the City. The revised forms are required under amendments to the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance that were approved by voters in November 1999. Staff identified seven Lobbyists On Behalf of the City during the year, all of whom have filed appropriate reports.
New Initiative: Time for Lobbyists to Register
In August, the Commission adopted a regulation providing for a deadline by which lobbyists must register with the Commission after they reach the qualification threshold for lobbyist activity. The regulation, which took effect in October 1999, specifies that lobbyists must register with the City no later than 10 days after the date they reach the qualification threshold under the San Francisco Lobbyist Ordinance. The regulation is posted on the Commission's web site.
CAMPAIGN CONSULTANT REGISTRATION AND REPORTING
Under San Francisco's Regulation of Campaign Consultants Ordinance, approved by the voters in 1997, persons who earn $1,000 or more in a calendar year providing campaign consultant services are required to register with the Ethics Commission and submit quarterly activity reports. The Commission administers the registration and reporting program and enforces the Ordinance. The Ordinance requires campaign consultants to report names of clients, services provided to and payments received from clients, contributions and gifts made to local officials, and other information. The Commission makes these reports available to the public and issues quarterly reports summarizing the consultants' quarterly filings. The reports may be accessed from the Commission's web site at www.sfgov.org/ethics/campaign/campaign.htm.
In December 1999, the Commission issued a summary of campaign consultant data covering the first year and a half of the reporting program. The Commission's summary, including the finding that consultants earned a record $2.5 million during the last quarter of 1999, received significant press coverage.
At the close of FY 99-00, there were17 registered campaign consultants. The Commission collected $10,450 in fees and fines for the year.
New Initiative: Regulation Regarding Filing of Facsimile Client Authorization Statements
In August, the Ethics Commission approved a regulation, which became effective in October 1999, to permit the filing of a Client Authorization Statement by fax. Under the Campaign Consultant Ordinance, a campaign consultant must file a Client Authorization Statement before providing any campaign consultant services or receiving any payments in exchange for such services, and, in any event, within 15 days of being retained by the client. Under the regulation, if a campaign consultant is retained by a client after the date of initial registration, he or she may file the Client Authorization Statement by fax, provided that the fax is received no later than the filing deadline, the original document is received by the Ethics Commission within 15 days of the filing deadline, and the original document is identical in all respects to the fax copy. The regulation is posted on the Commission's web site.
FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE BY CITY OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES
Statements of Economic Interests
Both the California Political Reform Act and the City's Conflict of Interest Code require public officials and employees with significant decision-making authority to disclose their personal financial interests, in order to inform the public about the decision maker's economic interests and potential conflicts of interest. The Commission serves as the filing officer for Statements of Economic Interests (SEIs) submitted by elected and appointed officials, department heads and members of designated boards and commissions who are required to file these statements.
The Commission notifies filers of filing deadlines and requirements, issues instructions on how to complete the forms, reviews filings, requests amendments where necessary, assesses penalties for failure to adhere to filing deadlines and requirements, and makes available on its web site a list of persons who have filed/not filed. In addition, hundreds of designated City employees file SEIs with their department heads rather than the Ethics Commission. These reports are located at the department heads' offices. The Commission instructs department heads about their duties as filing officer for their designated employees. The Commission also surveys department heads to confirm that all designated employees have filed.
During the year, 601 city officials were required to file SEIs with the Commission. Sixty percent met the April 3, 2000 deadline. As a result of persistent follow-up work by Commission staff, 85 percent had submitted SEIs by June 30, 2000. All outstanding filers requiring amendments or other modifications were monitored and canvassed for the required corrections. In addition, all outstanding SEIs from the previous fiscal year (those due on April 1, 1999) were received in FY 99-00. This year, the Commission levied $2,010 in fines for late filing of SEIs. Some of these fines were waived or reduced in accordance with guidelines issued by the Fair Political Practices Commission.
Sunshine Ordinance Declarations
Under the Sunshine Ordinance, as amended by the voters in November 1999, department heads and members of boards and commissions who are required to file SEIs with the Ethics Commission are now required to sign an annual declaration stating under penalty of perjury that they have read the Sunshine Ordinance and have attended, or will attend when next offered, an annual training on the Sunshine Ordinance. The Commission serves as filing officer for these declarations. Commission staff sent a memorandum to department heads and commission secretaries, along with a copy of the declaration form, to inform them of the new requirement. At the end of the fiscal year, 321 declarations had been filed with the Commission and may be viewed by members of the public at the Commission office.
INVESTIGATIONS AND ENFORCEMENT
The San Francisco Charter mandates that the Ethics Commission investigate allegations of ethics law violations concerning campaign finance, lobbying, conflicts of interest and governmental ethics. In addition, the Improper Government Activities Ordinance (also known as the Whistleblower Ordinance) allows the Commission to investigate complaints alleging retaliation for having filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission concerning violation of ethics laws. The Commission receives complaints of possible ethics violations via its complaint form, e-mail, and by telephone. The Commission also operates a hotline, (415) 554-9515, to encourage the filing of whistleblower complaints.
In FY 99-00, the Commission received 18 formal complaints, in addition to numerous other complaints concerning matters not within the Commission's enforcement jurisdiction. Pursuant to the Commission's Regulations for Investigations and Enforcement Proceedings, staff directs inquiries outside of its jurisdiction to the appropriate agency for investigation and enforcement.
Of the formal complaints received in FY 99-00, three were referred to other City departments for investigation and enforcement, five were dismissed or withdrawn, three are under review by the District Attorney, and six are undergoing preliminary inquiry by Commission staff. One complaint resulted in the assessment of an administrative penalty in the amount of $500.
POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE MAYOR AND BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
The Commission makes recommendations to the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors regarding the effectiveness of City ordinances relating to campaign finance, conflict of interest, lobbying, and government ethics. As discussed in prior sections of this report, during this year the Commission submitted campaign finance reform measures to the Board; and adopted regulations that clarify blackout periods for political contributions, that specify the time by which lobbyists must register, and that permit the filing of campaign consultant client authorization statements by fax. The Commission also proposed, and the Board approved, an ordinance authorizing the Commission to require electronic filing of reports by lobbyists and campaign consultants.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
The Commission conducts a comprehensive informational program to educate City officials, candidates for elective office and the general public about ethics-related laws and requirements. Staff members offer instructional workshops on legal compliance as well as seminars on ethics issues. The Commission also produces educational materials on a variety of subjects, including the filing of Statements of Economic Interest and the provisions of the Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance. The Commission actively publicizes its outreach services through public notices and press releases.
The Commission's web site, www.sfgov.org/ethics/, is an up-to-the-minute source of information about ethics law compliance. The site, which is accessible to anyone from computer terminals at public libraries and elsewhere, provides a wealth of information on all ethics ordinances administered by the Commission, and contains answers to virtually every question about City ethics requirements.
The site is a widely used resource. For instance, it received over 73,000 "hits" during the month of August — heavy traffic for a government site. It has the added benefit of increasing the efficiency of the Commission's small staff by freeing time that would otherwise be spent providing information by telephone, through the mail or in person. The site is administered by the San Francisco Department of Telecommunications and Information Services.
This year, Commission staff gave presentations on the Commission's On-Line Filing System and workshops on the Lobbyist Ordinance. In July, Commission staff presented a guest lecture to the Business and Ethics class at Golden Gate University. The staff is increasingly solicited for its expertise by academic and "good government" institutions.
ADVICE AND INFORMATION
As noted above, the Commission serves as the filing officer for campaign finance, lobbying, campaign consulting and financial disclosure reports. These documents are maintained in the Commission's office and are available for public review during regular business hours, and the Saturday before each election. The Commission provides opinions, formal and informal advice, and information about the City ordinances and regulations over which the Commission has jurisdiction.
The Commission also receives hundreds of inquiries regarding possible complaints and the complaint process. Throughout the year, it has responded to thousands of inquiries concerning the nature and work of the Commission, campaign finance disclosure, electronic filing, lobbyist disclosure and requirements, campaign consultant disclosure and requirements and statements of economic interests.
Many persons visited the Commission's office daily to access and research information contained in the public records filed with the Commission. The Commission staff provides assistance to the public in locating records, and in making both paper and disk copies of these records. Additionally, the Commission has responded to written requests and has issued formal and informal advice on ethics-related matters. The Commission issued five formal advice letters in FY 99-00 interpreting reporting requirements and defining City policy. These advice letters are accessible on the Commission's web site.
This year, the Commission provided advice to the Board of Supervisors, which approved a measure consolidating City ethics laws into a new Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code. The new code combines existing ordinances governing election campaigns, lobbyists, campaign consultants, official conduct, and whistleblower protections. These provisions had been separated under various chapters of the municipal code. The new consolidation makes it easier for the public to access ethics-related laws.
The Commission is a member of the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL) and participates in its annual conference. The Commission's executive director was a panelist at the December 1999 conference. She spoke on the topic, "How to Make Disclosure Meaningful," before a workshop that focused on disclosures of ethics-related data through the Internet.
OUTREACH TO ORGANIZATIONS AND INTERESTED INDIVIDUALS
The Commission has a strong institutional commitment to educate the public about San Francisco's ethics laws and to support campaign reform efforts consistent with City policy throughout the state and elsewhere.
In FY 99-00, the Commission's executive director appeared as a witness for the state in defense of Proposition 208, the California campaign finance initiative which underwent a court challenge.
Staff members are in routine communication with community organizations about the requirements of the laws and the record of compliance. Regular outreach activities touch a wide variety of individuals and organizations, including neighborhood associations, political clubs, unions, business groups, lobbyists and campaign consultants, reporters, and others.
The Commission encourages active participation in its monthly meetings by interested community members. Regular meetings are held on the second Monday of each month at 5:00 p.m. at City Hall, One Carlton Goodlett Place, Room 408, San Francisco. Additional meetings are held as necessary. Agendas of the meetings are posted in accordance with the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance and are mailed to a large and expanding list. In January 2000, the Commission's public hearing on public financing of election campaigns was televised on Citywatch, cable Channel 54.
The Commission occasionally serves as host to foreign visitors seeking to learn about San Francisco's ethics policies and procedures. During FY 99-00, staff met with a three- member delegation from Peru to discuss the Commission's program regulating local campaigns and to demonstrate its online filing system.
FY 99-00 BUDGET
The Commission's FY 99-00 budget of $610,931 reflected an increase of $135,285 over last year's $475,646 allocation. The Mayor's proposed budget included funding for a permanent full time clerical assistant and revenue projections exceeding last year's by approximately $15,000.
The Board of Supervisors' adjustments to the budget reflected increases of $50,000 for an electronic filing program for lobbyists and campaign consultants and $38,216 to upgrade the clerical assistant position to full time.
The Commission's annual budget allocations, as outlined below, reflect an expanding jurisdiction as mandated by voter initiatives and Board-adopted ordinances and directives.
MEMBERSHIP AND ADMINISTRATION
The Ethics Commission has five non-salaried members and a staff of seven supported by varying numbers of interns throughout the year. Commissioners serving in the1999-2000 fiscal year were as follows:
Isabella H. Grant, Chairperson
(appointed 5/97; elected Chairperson 2/98; re-appointed 6/98)
Board of Supervisors
Henri E. Norris, Vice-Chairperson
(appointed 12/97; elected Vice-Chairperson 2/98)
Robert D. Dockendorff
Carol M. Kingsley
Paul H. Melbostad
(appointed 3/96; re-appointed 8/98)
The Commission staff for FY 99-00 was headed by Ginny Vida, Executive Director. Other staff members were Naomi Starkman, Deputy Executive Director (through May, 2000); Joseph Lynn, Campaign Finance Officer; Shaista Shaikh, Campaign Finance Auditor; Peggy Ahn, Ethics Investigator/Legal Analyst (through August, 1999); Katherine C. Havener, Ethics Investigator/Legal Analyst (from September, 1999); Armando Gomez, Campaign Finance Assistant (through December, 1999); David Riccomini, Temporary Campaign Finance Assistant (February and March, 2000); Frank Lester, Temporary Campaign Finance Assistant (from April, 2000); and Jennifer Deluta-Taloa, Senior Clerk Typist.
Through its internship program, the Commission has been fortunate to have the talented assistance of a number of students from local universities and San Francisco high schools. In FY 99-00, undergraduates from Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, Sacramento State, as well as students from Galileo High School, and St. Ignatius College Preparatory provided support for Commission staff working on lobbyist registration, on-line filing, on-going audits, and evaluation of the Commission's technical needs.
During the coming months, the Commission will propose regulations for implementation of the Fair Elections Ordinance (Proposition O) approved by the voters in November 2000, and will propose a budget for administration of the new Ordinance. It will also educate candidates and committees about their obligations under the new law.
The Commission will also educate contractors and City officers and employees about Proposition J, another campaign finance measure approved by voters in November 2000. Proposition J limits contributions by contractors to the campaign committees of City officers who approve their contracts.
In accordance with its Charter mandates, the Commission will consider proposals to clarify and strengthen laws and rules within its jurisdiction, and will also consider ways to strengthen and make more efficient its investigation and enforcement program.
In FY 99-00, the Commission took significant steps toward fulfilling its mandates. The Commission will continue to vigorously pursue legal and educational action to promote ethics in government in the City of San Francisco.
Isabella H. Grant
1 The Board of Supervisors resolution urged the Ethics Commission "to study and hold public hearings on public financing of candidate campaigns for local elective office and other measures designed to curb the influence of special-interest contributions on public policy and administration; to consider specific components of a public financing measure; to consider other campaign finance reforms designed to reduce the influence of campaign contributions on the design and/or award of public contracts; to consider expanded disclosure requirements for candidate, independent expenditure, and non-candidate controlled committees; to submit such proposed campaign reform measures as it deems necessary to the Board of Supervisors for their consideration; and to study and recommend to the Board of Supervisors methods by which the City and County can provide candidates for public office with cost-effective, direct access to voters."
2 Prior to the November 7, 2000 election, the $75,000 spending limit was lifted in nine of the eleven supervisorial districts because of high levels of independent expenditures made to influence the election in seven districts, and because candidates in two other districts declined to accept the spending limit and also accepted contributions exceeding 50 percent of the spending limit. The lifting of the $75,000 limit in the general election also eliminated the $20,000 limit in the run-off election in those districts.