Minutes of the Regular Meeting of
The San Francisco Ethics Commission
August 10, 2009
Room 408, City Hall
I. Call to order and roll call.
Chairperson Studley called the meeting to order at 5:35 p.m.
COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT: Jamienne Studley, Chairperson; Susan Harriman, Vice-Charperson; Eileen Hansen, Commissioner; Charles Ward, Commissioner. Commissioner Emi Gusukuma was excused.
STAFF PRESENT: John St. Croix, Executive Director; Mabel Ng, Deputy Executive Director; Garrett Chatfield, Investigator/Legal Analyst.
OFFICE OF THE CITY ATTORNEY: Andrew Shen, Deputy City Attorney.
OTHERS PRESENT: Harry Baker, Maria Guillen, Richard Knee, Marc Solomon, Anita Mayo, Charlie Marsteller, and other unidentified members of the public.
– Memorandum from Executive Director to Ethics Commission re: Proposed amendments to Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance, August 3, 2009
– Legislative Digest, amendments to Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance
– Draft amendments to Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance
– Memorandum from Executive Director to Ethics Commission re: Agenda Item V Transcript of July 13, 2009, Commission Meeting, August 4, 2009
– Memorandum from Executive Director to Ethics Commission re: Contribution Limits, August 3, 2009
– Draft Minutes of the July 13, 2009 Regular Meeting
– Executive Director’s Report to the Ethics Commission for the Meeting of August 10, 2009
II. Public comment on matters appearing or not appearing on the agenda that is within the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission
Harry Baker stated that he attended the meeting to support Oliver Luby, who believes that campaign finance laws should be applied fairly by the Commission.
Maria Guillen stated that she also attended the meeting to support Oliver Luby. She stated the Commission must uphold its own mission statement to promote ethical standards of government officials.
Richard Knee stated that speakers are not required to identify themselves in order to speak. He also attended to support Oliver Luby, who he stated is a dedicated employee of the Commission.
Marc Solomon stated that Ethics Commission staff should pursue the stated mission of the Ethics Commission. He stated that the Commission should adopt standards of professionalism.
IV. Consideration of possible amendments to the $500 contribution limit under section 1.114(a) of the Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code.
Chairperson Studley stated that this agenda item is for discussion to determine if the limit should be raised and if an interested persons meeting should be held. She stated that this agenda item will be taken out of order.
Executive Director St. Croix stated that staff is required to assess periodically whether the limit should be raised. He stated that other cities have raised the limit to adjust for inflation.
Deputy Executive Director Ng stated that staff originally proposed that periodic adjustments to the limit be made, and that comments regarding raising the limit were made during an interested persons meeting. She stated that the FPPC raises the limit by an automatic formula that adjusts for inflation. She stated that the Commission might also consider raising the limit only for City-wide elections.
Commissioner Hansen stated that the limit should remain at $500.
Commissioner Harriman stated that the limit should only be raised if the public overwhelmingly expressed the need to raise the limit.
Deputy Executive Director Ng stated that the City Charter allows for cost of living adjustments to the limit.
Commissioner Ward stated that unless the public demands a change in the limit, it should remain at $500.
Executive Director St. Croix stated that the Commission could send a message out to interested persons to solicit comments regarding adjusting the limit instead of holding an interested persons meeting.
Marc Solomon stated that the current limit of $500 does not inhibit the ability for candidates to raise funds. He stated that this topic is unnecessary and that the Commission should leave the limit at $500.
Anita Mayo stated that she did not believe the notice for the recent interested persons meeting included changes to the contribution limits. Since one of the purposes of CFRO is to reduce the amount of time spent on fundraising, the City should consider raising the contribution limits. San Francisco’s current campaign contribution limits are based on the Los Angeles model. The Los Angeles model recognizes that it cost considerably more funds to run for citywide office than for district office. CFRO also recognizes this distinction since CFRO permits a higher level of spending in citywide elections than in district elections. To be consistent, San Francisco should have different contribution limits for citywide elections and district elections.
Charlie Marsteller stated that there are legal aspects to raising the limit about which the Commission should consult with the City Attorney.
Chairperson Studley stated that staff will determine if this is something the Commission should pursue further after assessing the public comments regarding contribution limits.
III. Consideration of possible amendments to the Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance (CFRO), San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code section 1.100 et seq.
Deputy Executive Director Ng stated that staff met with Supervisor Daly regarding the proposed changes. She stated that Supervisor Daly introduced the amendments to the Board of Supervisors, and changes must be approved by 4/5 of the Ethics Commission and a super majority of the Board of Supervisors. She stated if there are no changes to the amendments by the Commission at this meeting, then the earliest the amendments could be adopted is December 2009. She stated that public financing of candidates will begin February 2010.
Commissioner Harriman stated that most changes appear to be technical, but the definition of “person” is too broad.
Deputy City Attorney Shen stated that the definition is the same as the equivalent state law.
Commissioner Harriman stated that the definition should not include “group of person acting in concert, however organized.”
Commissioner Hansen stated that not enough information regarding the policy reasons for the changes have been presented to the Commissioners and would like to hear from the public before acting on the amendments.
Anita Mayo stated that with respect to the proposed term “membership communication,” it is her belief that it is unconstitutional for the City to require a private membership organization to publicly disclose private communications between the organization and its members. In addition, payments for such disclosure are preempted by Government Code Section 85312 which provides that payments for membership communications are not contributions or expenditures. Furthermore, Government Code Section 85703(a) prohibits local jurisdictions from enacting laws which conflict with Government Code Section 85312.
Marc Solomon stated that the loan limits should not be raised to $15,000 as proposed.
Charlie Marsteller questioned if there would be any accompanying regulations to the proposed amendments.
Deputy Executive Director Ng stated that regulations can be considered after the amendments are enacted. She stated that the definition of “member communications” allows for the adjustment of the expenditure ceilings. She stated that the there is no obligation to report the communication if there is no associated cost. She stated that “member communications” is used throughout CFRO and that striking that language would constitute a major revision of the ordinance.
Chairperson Studley stated that the Commission should review each change individually:
Commissioner Hansen stated that the definition of “surplus funds” should not exclude a ballot measure.
Deputy City Attorney Shen stated the change was in response to a situation in which a ballot measure committee could not move money between committees to pay the debt of another.
Commissioner Hansen stated that money should not be moved between committees.
Deputy City Attorney Shen stated that an indebted committee is able to remain formed to raise money to pay its debt.
Charlie Marsteller stated that regulations could be used to clarify the definition.
All Commissioners discussed how to proceed, procedurally, to resolve any issues arising out of the review of the Ordinance at this meeting. Commissioners determined that a review of the changes will aid staff in making further revisions.
Deputy Executive Ng stated that the reason for this change is to establish that the candidate is responsible for accrued debt.
Commissioner Hansen stated that the language of calculating the time to pay the debt of 180 days after goods are delivered, while removing the language of 180 days after receipt of bill is problematic. She stated there is no way to know when goods are delivered without the submission of a receipt.
Chairperson Studley stated that the obligation to pay starts upon the receipt of the goods which would shorten the timeline for paying bills.
Commissioner Ward stated that if a bill is not paid after a certain period of time, it should be presumed to be a donation.
Chairperson Studley identified a grammatical error.
Deputy City Attorney Shen stated that this change was initiated because situations can occur in which a candidate under a voluntary expenditure ceiling can be noted as such in a voter pamphlet, and subsequent to the printing of the voter pamphlet, the voluntary expenditure ceiling can be broken without being reflected in the pamphlet.
Deputy Executive Director Ng stated that inflation adjustments are calculated using the California Consumer Price index for the Bay area compared to when the law was last changed.
Deputy Executive Director Ng stated in response to Commissioner Ward, that the proposed loan amount increase is to establish consistency for publicly financed and non-publicly funded candidates.
Commissioner Hansen stated that although she is not in favor of the increase, she does not want to deter persons from seeking public funds.
Chairperson Studley stated that this section prohibits the receipt of public funds if the candidate was found to have willfully violated the California Political Reform Act by a court within the last five years. She stated she wanted to ensure that there is a clear determination of such a finding.
Commissioner Hansen stated that this provision should also include findings by the Ethics Commission.
Executive Director St. Croix said that few if any committees have equipment valued over $100.00.
Commissioner Ward stated that the supplemental reporting requirement for the Board of Supervisors currently triggers at $5000.
Deputy Executive Director Ng stated that the change to $10,000 will only be applied to mayoral candidates. She stated that the ceiling for mayoral candidates is very high and it would take significant staff resources to review the amount of reports that a $5000 requirement would generate.
Commissioner Ward stated that the lower amount is better, and that the Commission should wait to see if the volume of reports is difficult to review timely. He stated that the lower amount is more transparent, and that the higher limit allows for a loophole that allows candidates to spend more money before reporting.
Executive Director St. Croix stated that staff will go through a cycle with the lower amount and determine how much of staff resources are used to track reporting.
Executive Director St. Croix stated, in response to Commissioner Hansen, that the change in the statute of limitations change was proposed to ensure that the statute of limitations for violations of all laws within the Commission’s jurisdiction is the same.
Commissioner Hansen stated that section 1.170, the penalties section, should not remove the damages amount.
Deputy City Attorney Shen stated the Charter provides the same language and the provision now just references the Charter. He stated that in effect there is no substantive change.
Motion 09-08-10-1 (Harriman/Ward) Moved, seconded and passed (4-0), that the Commission adopt sections 1.108, 1.112, 1.113, 1.122, 1.128, 1.130, 1.134, 1.135, 1.144, 1.148, 1.150, 1.156, 1.161, 1.161.5, and 1.168, as drafted; delete sections 1.134.5, 1.158, and 1.160; and approve sections 1.109, 1.143, and 1.171 as drafted.
V. Minutes of the Commission’s regular meeting of July 13, 2009.
Commissioner Hansen and Chairperson Studley noted several corrections to the minutes.
Motion 09-08-10-2 (Harriman/Hansen) Moved, seconded and passed (4-0), that the Commission adopt the minutes as amended.
VI. Executive Director’s Report
Executive Director St. Croix stated that staff was pleased with the budget the Commission received for the current fiscal year. He stated that two staff members have resigned from the Commission. He stated that lobbyists hired to lobby on behalf of the City have not been reporting, and will retroactively file all reports. He stated that there are no enforcement provisions in the Sunshine Ordinance for failing to report, which is where those rules are housed.
Commissioner Hansen stated that the Executive Director’s Report should include more information such as: new legislation that is introduced by the Board of Supervisors; who attended interested persons meetings; and press accounts that reference the Commission.
VII. Items for future meetings
Commissioner Hansen stated that she wanted to ensure the Commission continue to have joint meetings with the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force. She also stated that she would like to discuss budgeting for televised meetings. She also stated that she would like to continue discussion of section 1.126 and discuss a press account of how campaign finance laws are being enforced unevenly.
VIII. Public comment on matters appearing or not appearing on the agenda that are within the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission
Motion 09-08-10-3 (Harriman/Ward) Moved, seconded and passed (4-0) that the Ethics Commission adjourn.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:08 p.m.
Investigator/ Legal Analyst