Ethics Commission
City and County of San Francisco

Minutes – May 28, 2014

Minutes of the Special Meeting of
The San Francisco Ethics Commission
May 28, 2014
Room 416, 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 5:30 PM.

COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT: Benedict Y. Hur, Chairperson; Paul Renne, Vice-Chairperson; Brett Andrews, Commissioner; Beverly Hayon, Commissioner (arrived at 5:45 PM); Peter Keane, Commissioner.

STAFF PRESENT: John St. Croix, Executive Director; Jesse Mainardi, Deputy Executive Director; Garrett Chatfield, Investigator/Legal Analyst.

OFFICE OF THE CITY ATTORNEY: Josh White, Deputy City Attorney (DCA).

OTHERS PRESENT: Allen Grossman; Ray Hartz; Derek Kerr; Peter Warfield; Hope Johnson; Michael Petrelis; Patrick Monette-Shaw; David Pilpel; Anita Mayo; and other unidentified members of the public.

MATERIALS DISTRIBUTED:

  • Staff Memorandum re: Commission Response to McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission and Resolution, dated May 18, 2014;
  • Draft minutes of the Commission’s Regular Meeting of April 28, 2014;
  • 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.

Allen Grossman stated that Executive Director St. Croix is hostile to open government. He stated that Executive Director St. Croix dismissed 40 Sunshine Ordinance Task Force referrals since 2005. Mr. Grossman stated that he is currently a litigant in a pending action against the Ethics Commission and that he successfully sued the Ethics Commission in 2009.

Ray Hartz stated that the City Attorney encourages City employees to withhold public records. He stated that he has 17 orders of determination from the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force and one against Deputy City Attorney Paula Jessen.

Derek Kerr stated that the City had to pay $25,000 in 2009 to Mr. Grossman. He stated that the Ethics Commission is tasked with enforcing all ethics laws including those related to open government.

Hope Johnson stated that the City Attorney is overreaching regarding the current litigation with Mr. Grossman. She stated that the bylaws for the Ethics Commission require the Commission to comply with the Sunshine Ordinance. She stated that the City Attorney cannot give assistance to City departments regarding the withholding of public records.

Michael Petrelis stated that he is a gay blogger and person with AIDS. He stated that he was wearing a button that said silence equals death. He stated that more sunshine is needed in government. He stated that sunshine equals life.

Patrick Monette-Shaw stated that the description of Item IV does not meet the requirements under the Sunshine Ordinance, and it violates section 67.11 of the Sunshine Ordinance by failing to describe what will be considered in closed session.

David Pilpel stated that he had suggested edits for the draft minutes and would like the Commission to set an agenda item at a future meeting to discuss changes to the lobbyist ordinance and Civil Grand Jury report.

III. Discussion and possible action on the Ethics Commission’s policy response to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, No. 12-536.

Executive Director St. Croix introduced the item.

Commissioner Keane stated that McCutcheon makes enforcing aggregate limits unconstitutional. He stated that the Commission should adopt the resolution to give notice to committees that the Commission will not enforce its aggregate limit proscriptions.

In response to Commissioner Andrews, Executive Director St. Croix stated that the Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance will need some future changes.

Commission Andrews stated that it makes sense to adopt the resolution then make the amendments to the aggregate limit laws along with other necessary changes.

Public Comment:

Ray Hartz stated that the Commission is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic with regard to campaign finance rules. He stated that the Commission spends 90 percent of its time dealing with campaign finance issues and ignores misconduct by public officials. He stated that the Ethics Commission is not a fair body and always grants waivers to City employees who want to work for City contractors.

Anita Mayo stated she supported the resolution and repeal of the aggregate limit rules.

David Pilpel stated that he supported the adoption of the resolution and that the Commission should hold interested persons meetings for any proposed changes to campaign finance laws.

Michael Petrelis stated that the Ethics Commission never enforced the aggregate limit rules anyway. He stated that the Commission is not a public watchdog.

Patrick Monette-Shaw stated that the Ethics Commission is a failure at enforcing Sunshine Ordinance Task Force referrals. He stated that the Ethics Commission now wants to stop enforcing aggregate limits. He stated that if the Ethics Commission continues to abrogate its duties it should be disbanded.

Peter Warfield stated that the language used in the agenda for this item does not apprise an ordinary person on whether his or her interests would be affected. He stated that someone might not know that the McCutcheon decision relates to aggregate limits. He stated that McCutcheon interpreted federal law and this action is about a local law.

Motion 14-05-28-01 (Keane/Renne) Moved, seconded and passed (5-0) that the Ethics Commission suspend enforcement of the aggregate contribution limit found in Campaign and Governmental Conduct code section 1.114(a)(2) given the United States Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, No. 12-536, and direct staff to prepare a package of amendments to the San Francisco Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance, including a repeal of section 1.114(a)(2).

IV. Discussion and possible action regarding pending litigation as defendant, Grossman v. John St. Croix, Executive Director, and San Francisco Ethics Commission, San Francisco County Superior Court, Case No. CPF-13-513221; California Court of Appeal 1st Dist., Case No. A140308. Possible Closed Session.

Public Comment:

Allen Grossman stated that he has no way of knowing what the Commission knows about this litigation. He stated that any materials the Commission received in connection with this item should have been provided to the public.

Derek Kerr stated that the Commission does not need to go into closed session regarding this item.

Patrick Monette-Shaw stated that the appeal for this item was not properly brought to the court. He stated that the Ethics Commission cannot delegate litigation to the Executive Director.

Ray Hartz stated that the Ethics Commission has descended into political theater. He stated that the agenda does not let the public know what will be discussed in closed session. He stated that the citizens of San Francisco want open government.

Michael Petrelis stated that the Commission should discuss this item in open session. He stated that City Attorney Herrera allowed an author into the attorney-client conversations regarding the marriage equality cases.

An unidentified member of the public stated that the Ethics Commission never authorized this litigation.

Peter Warfield stated that this item should be discussed in open session. He stated that the Civil Grand Jury called the Ethics Commission a sleeping watchdog, but it really is awake and guarding secrecy.

An unidentified member of the public stated that she sat on the Civil Grand Jury three years ago and nothing has changed. She stated that the Ethics Commission has abrogated its authority to the Executive Director.

Hope Johnson stated that if materials were provided to the Ethics Commission then those documents should be provided to the public.

DCA White stated that the Commission was provided with the documents filed with the court regarding the litigation. He stated that those documents should have been made available at the meeting and the Commission should put this item over to the next meeting so it can be noticed with the documents available to the public.

Commissioner Keane objected to postponing this item until the next meeting. He stated that there was no substantive violation of the spirit of the Sunshine Ordinance by not providing the documents. He stated that the agenda references the court case number and that those documents are publicly available from the court.

DCA White stated that the reference to the court case number is insufficient to meet the requirements of the Sunshine Ordinance and he recommended that the Commission calendar this item for another meeting and provide the court documents that were given to the Commission members.

Chairperson Hur continued the item to a future meeting.

V. Discussion and possible action regarding three complaints received or initiated by the Ethics Commission. Possible Closed Session.

Public Comment:

Ray Hartz stated that closed session items give the appearance that the Ethics Commission has something to hide. He stated that the agenda does not properly inform the public about the closed session discussion.

Motion 14-05-28-02 (Renne/Hur) Moved, seconded and passed (3-2, Andrews and Keane dissenting) that the Ethics Commission move into closed session.

The Ethics Commission went into closed session at 6:48 PM. All members of the public left the hearing room. The Commission members, Executive Director St. Croix, Deputy Executive Director Mainardi, staff member Mr. Chatfield, and DCA White remained in the hearing room during closed session.

The Ethics Commission returned to open session at 7:30 PM. No members of the public returned to the hearing room.

Chairperson Hur stated that during closed session the Commission made a motion to disclose the reason why the Commission held a closed session, which was to address three probable cause reports, and that the Commission is required under its regulations to go into closed session to discuss probable cause reports. He stated that the Commission also discussed that in the future the Commission will disclose the reasons for the closed session prior to and when it returns from closed session.

Executive Director St. Croix announced that the Commission found probable cause to believe that Alpha Buie, the treasurer of the African American Democratic Club, committed three violations of the San Francisco Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance by failing to file campaign statements.

Executive Director St. Croix announced that the Commission found probable cause to believe that Jacqueline Norman, a former candidate and the treasurer of the Committee to Elect Norman Supervisor 2012, committed six violations of the San Francisco Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance by failing to file campaign statements.

Executive Director St. Croix announced that the Commission found probable cause to believe that Ted Gullicksen, Treasurer for the Committee To Stop Mass Demolition of Housing, A Committee to Support Proposition __, committed six violations of the San Francisco Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance by failing to file campaign statements.

The Commissioners each certified that he or she personally heard or read the testimony, reviewed the evidence, or otherwise reviewed the entire record of the proceedings for each of the three probable cause hearings conducted in closed session.

Public Comment:
None.

VI. Discussion and possible action on the minutes of the Commission’s meeting of April 28, 2014.

Motion 14-05-28-03 (Renne/Keane) Moved, seconded and passed (5-0) that the Ethics Commission approve the minutes of the Commission’s meeting of April 28, 2014.

Public Comment:
None.

VII. Discussion of Executive Director’s Report.

Executive Director St. Croix introduced the item and briefly outlined the budget process in response to Commissioner Andrews.

Responding to a question from Chairperson Hur, Executive Director St. Croix stated that the Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction to enforce Form 700 Statement of Economic Interests violations because the California Fair Political Practices Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over those matters. He stated that the Ethics Commission may only impose late fines for the failure to file a Form 700 by the required deadline.

Public Comment:
None.

VIII. Items for future meetings.

Commissioner Andrews requested that Commission discuss the Board of Supervisors’ proposed changes to the Lobbyist Ordinance.

Public Comment:
None.

IX. Adjournment.

Motion 14-05-28-04 (Hayon/Renne) Moved, seconded, and passed (5-0) that the Ethics Commission adjourn.

The meeting adjourned at 7:45 PM.

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