Minutes of the Regular Meeting of
The San Francisco Ethics Commission
August 24, 2015
Room 400 City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102
I. Call to order and roll call.
Chairperson Renne called the meeting to order at 5:39 PM.
COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT: Paul Renne, Chairperson; Brett Andrews, Vice-Chairperson; Beverly Hayon, Commissioner; Ben Hur, Commissioner; Peter Keane, Commissioner.
STAFF PRESENT: Jesse Mainardi, Acting Executive Director; Catherine Argumedo, Investigator/Legal Analyst.
OFFICE OF THE CITY ATTORNEY: Andrew Shen, Deputy City Attorney (DCA); Jon Givner, DCA.
OTHERS PRESENT: Kathleen Courtney; Art Agnos; Larry Bush; Amy Farah Weiss; Vedica Puri; Shannon Bolt; Oliver Chaulker; David Pilpel; Robert Van Ravenswaay; and other unidentified members of the public.
– Proposition C – Ethics Commission Ballot Argument and Proposition C – Ethics Commission Rebuttal;
– Memorandum from Acting Executive Director Jesse Mainardi re: Proposed Modification of Fixed Penalty Policy for CFRO Violations, dated August 19, 2015;
– Executive Director – San Francisco Ethics Commission job posting, from Alliance Resource Consulting LLC;
– Acting Executive Director’s Report;
– Draft minutes of the Special Ethics Commission Meeting on June 29, 2015;
– Draft minutes of the Regular Ethics Commission Meeting on July 27, 2015.
II. Public comment on matters appearing or not appearing on the agenda that are within the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission.
Kathleen Courtney, a District 3 resident, discussed a telephone questionnaire she received and asked the Commission to act on Eileen Hansen’s complaint. Ms. Courtney distributed a document to the Commissioners.
Former Mayor Art Agnos urged the Commission to act with speed on the complaint from Eileen Hansen. He stated that the former Executive Director dismissed the complaint. He also stated that Acting Executive Director Jesse Mainardi should be recused from this complaint. He distributed a document to the Commissioners.
Commissioner Keane asked whether the complaint was dismissed, as alleged. DCA Shen stated that all investigations are confidential and that the current agenda item is public comment. He suggested that if the Commissioners had extended comments, the matter should be noticed and placed on the agenda for a future meeting.
Larry Bush stated that there had not been acknowledgment of the complaint and that he was reliably informed that the former Executive Director stated there was no violation.
Amy Farah Weiss asked the Commission to address the allegations against Mayor Lee prior to the November 2015 election.
Vedica Puri stated that the District 3 race is the most heated one and asked that the Commission investigate the complaint. She stated that there needs to be transparency.
Shannon Bolt voiced concerns about the allegations about Mayor Lee.
Oliver Chaulker voiced concerns about the allegations about Mayor Lee.
David Pilpel, speaking as an individual, voiced concerns about comments attributed to Commissioner Keane. He stated that the comments appeared to confirm complaint receipt and investigation.
Chairperson Renne read from the Commission’s by-laws and stated that the Commission shall urge the public in the strongest possible terms not to make complaints in public meetings. He stated that complaints should be filed with staff.
Commissioner Keane responded to Mr. Pilpel’s comments. He stated that he had said a literal regurgitation of what former Executive Director St. Croix had stated in a letter to a member of the public. He stated that he did not reveal any confidential information.
III. Discussion and possible action regarding Commission activities relating to its expenditure lobbyist ballot measure.
Chair Renne introduced the item. He stated that he and Acting Executive Director Mainardi had been attending various political club meetings who have held endorsement meetings. He stated that the Commission may not advocate one way or another on the measure itself. He stated that Larry Bush has also been attending and acting as an advocate for the measure. Commissioner Hur thanked the Chair and Acting Executive Director Mainardi for their efforts. Commissioner Keane concurred.
Larry Bush stated that the club that voted to oppose the measure was given misleading information. He distributed a document to the Commissioners.
Robert van Ravenswaay suggested that the Commission update its FAQ page. He also noted that the second page is missing from the documents provided for the meeting. He stated that the Commission should note that non-profits and unions were subject to the prior law.
IV. Discussion and possible action regarding staff’s proposal to issue warning letters instead of pursuing fines for certain violations of disclaimer requirements for campaign-related communications.
Acting Executive Director Mainardi introduced the item. He stated that CFRO recently was amended and staff anticipates mistakes in some disclosures during the transition period. He stated that the policies need to be updated and requested that staff exercise discretion pending that update. He proposed that staff issue warning letters, subject to the Commission’s approval. Commissioner Hayon asked how long it would take to update the policies and Acting Executive Director Mainardi stated a few months. Commissioner Hayon stated that she supported staff’s proposal. Commissioners Hur and Keane agreed.
Motion 150824-01 (Hur/Hayon): Moved, seconded, and passed (5-0) to adopt staff’s proposal.
Robert van Ravenswaay asked how the current proposal would track the prior policies. Acting Executive Director Mainardi stated that the same process would occur and that staff would open a complaint and present the matter to the Commission for its approval.
David Pilpel supported staff’s proposal. He suggested updating staff’s project calendar/work plan.
V. Discussion and possible action regarding the Commission’s efforts to hire a new Executive Director.
[Acting Executive Director Mainardi left the well for this item.]
Chair Renne introduced the item. He stated that, to date, he had seen resumes from nine applicants. He stated that the firm has reported it now has received fourteen. He stated that applications would be accepted until September 11. He stated that he was not overwhelmed with the resumes he had seen so far. He stated that he and Vice-Chairperson Andrews would review and discuss the applications and then bring candidates to the full Commission for its consideration.
Commissioner Hur asked how many candidates they would present to the full Commission and also asked whether they would be able to continue the application process beyond the set deadline. Chairperson Renne stated that there was no magic number, and that he and Vice-Chairperson Andrews would be able to tell the recruiter to extend the deadline, if necessary. Chairperson Renne stated that he and Vice-Chairperson Andrews were working on core questions to ask all candidates. He stated that he would like to have a decision by the end of October. Commissioner Hur asked what would happen if they did not believe there was one candidate that would merit being Executive Director. Vice-Chairperson Andrews stated that having two candidates would be the minimum, but three would be ideal. He stated that having no candidates would be an automatic trigger to reach out for more. He stated that the Commission may then need to consider what it is offering in terms of salary and benefits. He stated that there is a temporary structure in place, so there is time.
Larry Bush asked whether the names of candidates would be confidential. He asked whether the core questions would be circulated. He requested the opportunity to solicit comment. He stated that the Commission should have a Commission Secretary. Chairperson Renne stated that the applicant’s names would remain confidential and agreed to circulate the questions for public comment.
Charles Marsteller asked who provided support for the Committee. Chairperson Renne stated that DHR has provided support and has been very cooperative, as well as the recruiting firm.
David Pilpel, speaking as an individual, appreciated the transparency about the hiring process. He stated that the Commission Secretary position is subject to budgetary requirements.
VI. Discussion and possible action regarding complaints received or initiated by the Ethics Commission concerning: (1) California Government Code sections 81004(a) (failure to verify accuracy of campaign statement), 84104 (failure to maintain committee records), 84211 (failure to disclose all campaign finance activity); San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code sections 1.106, 1.114 (exceeding contribution limit); (2) California Government Code sections 81004(a) (failure to verify accuracy of campaign statement), 84104 (failure to maintain required committee records), 84211 (failure to disclose all campaign finance activity); San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code sections 1.106, 1.109 (failure to maintain committee records), 1.114 (exceeding contribution limit), 1.118 (failure to pay accrued expenses); and (3) San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code sections 1.114 (exceeding contribution limit), 3.218 (engaging in incompatible activities), and 3.230 (engaging in prohibited political activity). Possible Closed Session.
Commissioner Hur asked for the legal basis for going into closed session. DCA Shen stated that the basis is listed under subsection (b) of this item on the agenda. DCA Shen stated that he is not routinely present, as it is usually DCA White, but that DCA Givner would be present during closed session. Commissioner Hur asked whether the Commission is seeking legal advice in connection with a pending enforcement matter. DCA Shen read the Charter provision regarding confidentiality.
Commissioner Keane asked whether, if the Commission move forward with closed session, that there would be some sort of probable cause hearing. He stated that, with criminal matters, a preliminary hearing is an open hearing. Acting Executive Director Mainardi stated that the Regulations and Charter provide that the probable cause hearing be closed to the public.
Motion 150824-02 (Hur/Keane): Moved, seconded, and passed (5-0) that the Commission move into closed session.
Larry Bush asked whether any candidates or committees involved in the November 2015 election were being discussed in closed session. DCA Shen advised the Commission not to answer.
Charles Marsteller stated that the Enforcement Regulations were written a long time ago and it is an excellent opportunity to revisit processes the Commission and its staff follow.
David Pilpel, speaking as an individual, suggested that the Commission revisit its Enforcement Regulations. He supported the motion.
Acting Executive Director Mainardi recused himself and left the hearing room.
The Commission moved into closed session at 6:57 PM. All members of the public and DCA Shen left the hearing room. The Commission members, DCA Givner, Respondent, Respondent’s counsel, and Ms. Argumedo remained in the hearing room during closed session until 8:06 pm. At 8:06 PM, Respondent and Respondent’s counsel left the hearing room and Acting Executive Director Mainardi returned into the hearing room for the final matter. The Commission returned into open session at 8:58 PM. DCA Givner left the hearing room and DCA Shen returned.
Motion 150824-03: (Keane/Hayon) Moved, seconded, and passed (5-0) that the Commission not disclose its closed session deliberations re: anticipated litigation.
David Pilpel asked whether there was an announcement of any action taken. Chairperson Renne said there was no announcement.
VII. Discussion and possible action on the Commission’s June 29 and July 27, 2015 draft meeting minutes.
David Pilpel stated he found some non-substantive typographical errors and provided his annotated version to Acting Executive Director Mainardi.
Motion 150824-04: (Hur/Andrews) Moved, seconded, and passed (5-0) that the Commission approve the draft minutes, subject to changes to drafting errors.
VIII. Discussion of Acting Executive Director’s Report.
Active Executive Director Mainardi stated that new CFRO rules went into effect at the end of July and that staff had prepared new forms, factsheets, and five charts in order to help people comply with the new rules. He stated that staff met with union members regarding the proposed electronic filing requirements for Form 700s and there continue to be concerns. He stated that it is not possible that the new electronic filing requirements will be implemented before the April 1, 2016 deadline. He stated that the new goal would be to implement by the 2017 deadline.
Vice-Chairperson Andrews stated that he would like to discuss the budget and talk about the possible Commission Secretary position that was mentioned earlier. He stated that it would be great to have a Commission Secretary.
Chairperson Renne asked whether the former Director met with the Mayor’s Office regarding the Commission’s budget. Acting Executive Director Mainardi stated that he did not think the former Director went directly to the Mayor, but with his office and also made appeals to members of the Board. Commissioner Keane agreed with the need for a Commission Secretary.
David Pilpel stated that the priorities and resources should be addressed with the new Executive Director. He stated that the Port Commission has a Commission Secretary part of the time and the remainder of his/her time is spent performing other tasks in the office.
IX. Items for future meetings.
The meeting adjourned at 9:18 P.M.