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San Francisco Ethics Commission Fines and Waivers

Policy for Late Campaign Disclosure Statements

The late filing of campaign disclosure statements denies voters and the general public of important information that should be current and readily available, especially when it is close in time to an election. The Political Reform Act provides that campaign disclosure statements filed late are subject to fines, and the San Francisco Ethics Commission will vigorously enforce these fines.

The San Francisco Ethics Commission's policy on fines and waivers is consistent with the current policy of the Secretary of State's Office (issued in April 1995). The Commission will only consider waiver requests based upon specified "good cause" reasons for late filing. Acceptable "good cause" reasons involve situations beyond a filer's control (for example, incapacitating physical illness and natural disasters). See attachment for a complete listing of "good cause" reasons and related documentation.

The grounds for a waiver of late filing fines are very specific and limited.

The following do not constitute "good cause" and therefore are not grounds for a waiver:

  • not receiving notice of filing requirements
  • not being available to sign forms
  • not sending filing to proper official
  • not knowing where to get forms
  • not having complete information by filing deadline
  • not picking up mail
  • secretarial error

Please note that the Political Reform Act mandates that late fines be imposed if campaign statements are not filed within ten days (or within five days if the campaign statement is due to be filed 12 days before an election) after the filing officer has sent specific written notice of the filing requirement. The Act does not allow for the waiver of late fines imposed if the filer fails to comply with written notification from a filing officer.

Finally, it is important to remember that the great majority of people who file campaign statements comply with the law. Many individuals devote long and hard hours to ensuring that disclosure statements are complete, accurate and filed on time.

Consequently, it is simply a matter of fairness to adhere to a rigorous policy for waiving fines imposed on those filers who are not diligent.

Campaign Disclosure "Good Cause" Reason for Waiving Late Filing Fines

The San Francisco Ethics Commission will consider requests to waive the payment of a late filing fine if the request is based on "good cause."

Waiver Request

A written request for waiver must be submitted to the Executive Director of the Ethics Commission. The waiver request must be signed by the person(s) required to file the particular statement or report upon which the late filing fine was assessed.

There are two categories of "good cause" for waiving late filing fines. These causes must relate to the person(s) required by law to file the late report or statement. The first category includes incapacitation for medical reasons, hospitalization, involvement in an accident, and death. The second category includes other unique, unintentional factors beyond the filer's control.

First Category of Good Cause

    Adequate documentation consists of a signed statement by a board-certified physician, psychologist, psychotherapist, or chiropractor identifying the filer, the nature of the filer's incapacitation, and the date(s) thereof. The statement must be on the medical provider's letterhead.
    Adequate documentation consists of a copy of the hospital bill or physician's statement showing the filer's name and the date(s) of the hospitalization.
    If the accident involvement causes the late filing, adequate documentation consists of the police report showing the filer's name, the date and time of the accident, and, if applicable, whether or not the vehicle was disabled. In addition, the filer must provide the Executive Director with a written statement explaining how the accident caused the late filing.
  4. DEATH
    Adequate documentation consists of a copy of the filer's death certificate, published death notice or obituary.

Second Category of Good Cause

  1. The loss or unavailability of records due to a fire, flood, theft, earthquake or similar reason. Adequate documentation shall consist of a police, fire or insurance report indicating the date of the occurrence and the extent of the loss or damage.
  2. Other unique reasons. These include compelling reasons beyond the filer's control.

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