Minutes of the Regular Meeting of
The San Francisco Ethics Commission
April 22, 2013
Room 400, City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102
I. Call to order and roll call.
Chairperson Hayon called the meeting to order at 5:30 PM. Chairperson Hayon stated that Commissioner Studley was excused. She also noted that Commissioner Liu had resigned and her replacement has yet to be assigned.
COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT: Beverly Hayon, Chairperson; Paul A. Renne, Commissioner; Benedict Y. Hur, Commissioner. Commissioner Studley was excused.
STAFF PRESENT: John St. Croix, Executive Director; Mabel Ng, Deputy Executive Director; Steven Massey, Information Technology Officer; Catherine Argumedo, Investigator/Legal Analyst.
OFFICE OF THE CITY ATTORNEY: Josh White, Deputy City Attorney (DCA).
OTHERS PRESENT: Jonathan Pearlman, Historic Preservation Commissioner; Nicole Wheaton, Director of Appointments, Office of the Mayor; David Pilpel; and other unidentified members of the public.
– Staff Memorandum re: Request for Waiver from member of Historical Preservation Commission, dated April 15, 2013;
– Waiver request from Mr. Pearlman, dated April 2, 2013;
– Letter from Mayor Ed Lee re: San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code, Section 3.224 – Prohibition on Representing Private Parties Before Other City Officers and Employees – Compensated Advocacy, dated April 8, 2013 and supporting document;
– Staff Memorandum re: Regulation re: CFRO Section 1.112 and draft regulations, dated March 20, 2013;
– Staff Memorandum re: Contracting for the Electronic Filing System, dated April 12, 2013;
– Draft minutes of the Commission’s special meeting of April 1, 2013;
– Executive Director’s Report.
II. Public comment on matters appearing or not appearing on the agenda that are within the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission.
III. Discussion and possible action a request from Jonathan Pearlman and Mayor Lee for a waiver from Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code section 3.224 (compensated advocacy ban) on behalf of Mr. Pearlman, a licensed architect who occupies Seat 3, the architectural historian seat, on the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), so that Mr. Pearlman may represent private parties before other City officers and employees while he serves on the HPC.
Jonathan Pearlman, HPC Commissioner, stated that he is a practicing architect in San Francisco. He stated that he is serving on the HPC and is quite honored that Mayor Lee appointed him and that the Board supported the appointment. He stated that he cares about San Francisco and its historic buildings. He stated that he has practiced for about 19 years and continues to work on projects throughout the City. He stated that about 70% of his business is within the City – part of his work is presenting plans to the Planning Department or continuing to work with staff of the Planning Department or the Department of Building Inspection. He stated that the firm had about seven people in the 2000s, but now only has about four. He stated that, for the most part, he and his staff do not appear before any commission or board, as most issues are handled administratively. He stated that he has one project that is up for consideration before a commission, which is the Alexandria Theatre project. He stated that he has been solely responsible for that project and there is a hearing scheduled later on that week. He stated that no one else at his firm may present the issues on behalf of his client. He stated that, in the future, he expects to have more staff so that they would be able to present a project before a board or commission. He requested a waiver so that he may continue his livelihood and be able to continue serving on the HPC.
Commissioner Hur asked what Mr. Pearlman would do if he were not granted the waiver. Mr. Pearlman stated that he would probably not serve on the HPC because of the possible potential conflicts in the future. He stated that he would recuse himself, if any matter he had worked on came before the HPC. He stated again that he did not expect many, if any, projects to be heard by a board or commission. He stated that the waiver related to work he would need to do with staff.
Chairperson Hayon asked him about the requirements for Seat 3 on HPC. Mr. Pearlman stated that there are historians that do not work in the field and there are architects who work in the field, but are not historians. Commissioner Renne asked whether any other person who sat in Seat 3 on HPC had sought a waiver. Mr. Pearlman stated that, since HPC was relatively new, there has only been one other person in the Seat. He stated that that individual did not seek a waiver because he worked at a large firm and never presented anything before a board or commission. He also stated that there may not have been that many projects that the former Commissioner’s firm had in the City.
Commissioner Renne reminded Mr. Pearlman that he would not use his position to bring any kind of influence on the decisions made on behalf of his or his client’s projects. Mr. Pearlman stated that he would be extremely sensitive to that and would find other individuals in his firm who would present before the board or commission. He stated that he would do everything he could to avoid any appearance of taking advantage of his position.
Nicole Wheaton, Director of Appointments for the Mayor’s Office, stated that Mr. Pearlman’s appointment was unanimously approved by the Board about a month ago. Commissioner Hur asked for the number of candidates. She stated that outreach for the position began at the end of last year and there was a 60-day window from January 1. She stated that the Mayor’s Office reviewed between 25-30 candidates and narrowed it to three serious candidates. She stated that the waiver issue was discussed with Mr. Pearlman and would not have been necessary for the other two candidates.
Commissioner Hur asked what distinguished Mr. Pearlman from the other candidates. Ms. Wheaton stated that all of the candidates were fantastic, but what they liked about Mr. Pearlman was that he met all of the qualifications and his philosophy matched what the Mayor wanted to see. She stated that he was a small-business owner and that they were looking for someone with a pragmatic approach to historic preservation. She stated that he has experience in the City working on projects in the City and he has worked on smaller projects with residents and has first-hand experience with preservation. She stated that his approach towards preservation benefits the community now and into the future.
Motion 13-04-22-1 (Renne): Moved, but not seconded that the Commission grant the waiver.
Commissioner Hur stated that he would like to hear public comment first.
David Pilpel spoke in support of the waiver. He stated that he has had concerns about the Commission granting waivers over time, but that this seat needs to be filled and calls for specific qualifications. He stated that it would have been helpful if the waiver request came sooner, as Mr. Pearlman has already been a part of two HPC meetings.
Executive Director St. Croix stated that the matter had been originally planned for the last meeting, but was postponed due to scheduling problems.
Chairperson Hayon stated that she was concerned about putting undue obstacles in the way of citizens in San Francisco who want to serve, especially when an area of special expertise is required. She stated that the Commission wants people to participate in the governmental process and should not make it more difficult or impossible to serve.
Commissioner Hur stated that he was struggling with the term “necessary” as it sounds like there were other qualified candidates. He stated that he is inclined to vote to allow the waiver because he also recognizes that, if the Commission does not grant the waiver, the Commission is essentially saying that a small-business owner would not be able to sit on a position like this. He did not agree with categorically eliminating an entire group of people from serving on this Commission. Chairperson Hayon agreed.
Motion 13-04-22-2 (Renne/Hur): Moved, seconded, and passed (3-0; Studley excused) that the Commission grant the waiver.
Mr. Pearlman thanked the Commissioners.
IV. Discussion and possible action on proposed Ethics Commission regulations to require signers of electronic campaign finance reports to file a completed Signature Verification Form with the Commission.
Steven Massey, Ethics Commission Information Technology Officer, stated that local agencies may now accept campaign finance statements in an electronic format, instead of paper. He stated that section 1.112 of the Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance was amended last year, approved by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors, and went into effect in March 2013. He stated that all statements must be signed under the penalty of perjury and that the staff memorandum explains how filers will be able to comply with the signature requirement. He stated that staff reviewed what has been proposed in other jurisdictions and staff decided that the filer should sign a signature card and then receive a filer ID and PIN code. He stated that the cards would only be completed once and would be sufficient for all filings filed with the Ethics Commission. He stated that San Diego developed a similar procedure that it began this year, but that the paper is faxed to the office. He stated that staff proposes that the person either sign the card in front of Ethics Commission staff or have the person get the signature card notarized.
David Pilpel stated that he supported the proposal. He stated that many potential obstacles appear to be addressed by the notary requirement. He commented on the draft notice to committees and asked when staff would notify them of the change. He also stated that Mr. Massey is doing a good job.
Mr. Massey stated that the committees would be notified as soon as possible because they will need some time to complete the card, regardless of whether they will come into the Ethics Commission office. He stated that copies of an individual’s ID would not be made or kept by Commission staff and that it would only be used to verify identity in person. Chairperson Hayon asked whether staff would begin the process, even though the Board may not approve the change. Executive Director St. Croix stated that the Board could stop the process, but then staff would just have signature cards.
Commissioner Hur asked whether Mr. Massey was aware of any issues about how San Diego or any other jurisdictions have had using this process. Mr. Massey stated that in San Diego, there is no way to verify who sent the form into the office and who signed it or who is receiving the PIN. He stated that staff would like to use the card for electronic filings for Forms 410 and 501 in the future. He stated that it is important to verify a filer’s identity. Executive Director St. Croix stated that the Commission will monitor the process and decide if filers need to sign a new signature card again.
Mr. Massey stated that one of the reasons staff developed this signature card was to separate the candidate and treasurer, using a candidate-controlled committee as an example. He stated that each individual would be required to check in before the statement can be filed. He stated that a treasurer could complete a form, but the form would remain in a pending queue until the candidate confirmed the form as well.
Motion 13-04-22-3 (Hur/Renne): Moved, seconded, and passed (3-0; Studley excused) that the Commission approve the change to the CFRO regulation.
V. Discussion and possible action on Netfile contract.
Mr. Massey stated that the Commission has a contract with NetFile and it ends in September. He stated that the contracting process is lengthy. He stated that NetFile is the only vendor authorized by the Secretary of State. He stated that it is shared by over 20 cities and counties in the state, which has lowered maintenance costs. Executive Director St. Croix stated that the City has a lot of requirements when it comes to contracts. Commissioner Hur thanked Mr. Massey for his hard work on this and on many other website issues. He stated that it does not appear that there are many viable alternatives. Executive Director St. Croix stated that there is no alternative, but if the Commission did not approve, then staff would try to come up with some alternative. He stated that NetFile’s work with the City has helped them to make their product more desirable for other jurisdictions. He stated that staff is now asking for more developments and so costs will increase. Mr. Massey stated that the estimated cost will be less than $120,000/year. Executive Director St. Croix stated that staff needs the Commission’s approval in order to continue with the contract process with other departments.
David Pilpel stated that the amount quoted is less than the fully loaded costs of a programmer. He stated that a new contract with NetFile is the best course of action.
Motion 13-04-22-4 (Renne/Hur): Moved, seconded, and passed (3-0; Studley excused) that the Commission endorse staff’s proposal that contracting out is the most effective way to provide the electronic filing system that meets the needs of the Ethics Commission.
VI. Discussion and possible action on the minutes of the Commission’s special meeting of April 1, 2013.
David Pilpel stated that he found no errors.
Motion 13-04-22-5 (Hur/Renne): Moved, seconded, and passed (3-0; Studley excused) that the Commission approve the minutes of the Commission’s special meeting of April 1, 2013.
VII. Discussion of the Executive Director’s Report.
Executive Director St. Croix stated that the May meeting is scheduled on a City holiday, so it has been rescheduled for a special meeting at 5:30 PM on Thursday, May 30. He stated that the Commission plans on addressing the Budget & Legislative Analyst’s report that it issued last year and that the discussion may take some time. He also attached a publicity piece from a company that chose to highlight the Commission’s website and the use of the product.
David Pilpel thanked staff for including information under section two about settlement agreements.
VIII. Items for future meetings.
IX. Public comment on matters appearing or not appearing on the agenda that are within the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission.
Chairperson Hayon thanked staff about her first meeting as Chair and stated that it was the shortest meeting she had ever attended.
Motion 13-04-22-6 (Renne/Hur): Moved, seconded, and passed (3-0; Studley excused) that the Commission adjourn.
The meeting adjourned at 6:16 PM.