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Minutes – March 9, 2012

Minutes of the Special Meeting of
The San Francisco Ethics Commission
March 9, 2012
Room 400, City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102


I. Call to order and roll call.

Chairperson Hur called the meeting to order at 8:30 AM. 

COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT:  Benedict Y. Hur, Chairperson; Jamienne Studley, Vice-Chairperson; Beverly Hayon, Commissioner; Dorothy S. Liu, Commissioner; and Paul A. Renne, Commissioner.

STAFF PRESENT:  John St. Croix, Executive Director; Shaista Shaikh, Assistant Deputy Director; Catherine Argumedo, Investigator/Legal Analyst.

OFFICE OF THE CITY ATTORNEY:  Andrew Shen, Deputy City Attorney (DCA).

OTHERS PRESENT:  Steven Hill and David Pilpel.

– Staff Memorandum re: Amendments to legislation regarding public financing programs, dated March 5, 2012.
– Draft amendments to the San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code (File No. 111082), dated February 28, 2012.
– Legislative Digest (File No. 111082), dated February 28, 2012.
– Staff Memorandum re: Additional changes, Public Finance Proposal, dated March 8, 2012.
– Draft amendments to the San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code (File No. 111082), dated March 8, 2012.

  • II Consideration of amendments to legislations to amend the Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance (“CFRO”), San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code section 1.100 et seq., related to the public financing programs for candidates for the Board of Supervisors and Mayor.

    Executive Director St. Croix introduced the item.  He stated that new amendments have been submitted for the Commission’s consideration.  He stated that Board members had negotiated changes this week and came to a new agreement last night.  The proposal includes three changes to the amendments previously approved by the Commission.  The first change is that the cap on the Election Campaign Fund remains at $7 million, not $13.5 million.  The second change is that the initial individual expenditure ceiling for Mayoral candidates will remain at $1.475 million and not be raised.  Finally, a change has been proposed to section 1.154(b)(1) [page 18, lines 5-14] regarding when the Ethics Commission must notify the Board and the Mayor that the public funds available prior to a Mayoral election is too low.

    Chairperson Hur asked what would happen procedurally if the Commission were to approve the amendments.  Mr. St. Croix stated that the legislation would go to the Rules Committee and would be heard on April 5 or possibly late March.  He stated that after that, it would return to the full Board.  He stated that there is sufficient support at the Board for the proposed amendments.

    Chairperson Hur asked DCA Shen whether there were any procedural issues with the Commission’s taking action on this item.  DCA Shen stated that the Commission may amend legislation as it sees fit, as there was sufficient notice of the item to be heard and discussed.  He stated that the Commission may make legislative changes to any legislation and pass it the same day. 

    Commissioner Studley asked how staff determined the $7 million cap.  Mr. St. Croix stated that the most that has been spent to this point is $4.8 million and so staff decided that a $5 million cap was too low.  He stated that staff anticipated that $7 million would be sufficient to cover a Mayoral race.

    DCA Shen clarified that, under the amended section 1.154(b)(1), the Commission would be required to notify the Board and Mayor, but would not be required to request the money, if not practically required.  Chairperson Hur asked whether there was a mechanism for the Board or Mayor to increase funds without the Commission’s request.  Mr. St. Croix stated that they could if it were within their budgetary authority.

    Public Comment:
    David Pilpel stated that he had just seen the latest draft amendments.  He stated that he was unhappy to see the amendments now and expressed concern that copies were not made available to the public earlier.  Mr. St. Croix stated that the amendments were completed last night.  Chairperson Hur stated that the Commissioners had not seen the latest draft amendments until this morning.

    Mr. Pilpel noted a technical change on page 18, subsection b.  He stated that “Mayor” should be added to line 6 and lines 16-17.  He stated that he had no policy objection to the program structure.  He stated that there could be a “future court decision” regarding treating incumbents differently from other candidates.  He also suggested keeping the filing deadline at Election Day minus 88 days, in order to avoid extending the campaign season.  He stated that there could be other approaches for dealing with “zombie” candidates or limiting the number of candidates seeking public financing.

    Steven Hill stated that there had not been an intention to hide anything, but that members of the Board had concerns and they attempted to address them as quickly as possible.  He stated that Board members wanted to make sure that the people were doing the right thing and that everything finalized yesterday evening.  He stated that the amendments further the goals of the campaign finance program.  He expressed support for the proposed amendments and urged the Commission to adopt the amendments.

    Motion 12-03-09-1 (Hayon/Studley):  Moved, seconded, and passed (5-0) that the Ethics Commission approve the proposed amendments of the Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance.   

    III. Adjournment.

    The meeting was adjourned at 8:50 AM.

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