Minutes of the Special Committee Meeting of
The San Francisco Ethics Commission
September 4, 2015
Room 421 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 11:06 AM.
COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT: Paul Renne, Chairperson; Brett Andrews, Vice-Chairperson.
STAFF PRESENT: Catherine Argumedo, Investigator/Legal Analyst.
OFFICE OF THE CITY ATTORNEY: Andrew Shen, Deputy City Attorney (DCA).
OTHERS PRESENT: Sherrill Uyeda, Alliance Resource Consulting LLC; Bob Planthold; Larry Bush; Charles Marsteller; Hülda Garfolo; and other unidentified members of the public.
II. Discussion and possible action regarding the Commission’s search for a new Executive Director, including discussion of the Commission’s recruiting efforts to date, the review process for applications received, and the interview process and interview questions for applicants.
Chairperson Renne thanked Sherrill Uyeda for attending the meeting. He stated that the current deadline for applications is September 11, 2015. Ms. Uyeda stated that Alliance had received 16 applications, but that more were expected. As applications have been received from all over the country, the Commissioners stated they did not expect to extend the deadline.
Chairperson Renne asked the members of the public present what the most important or two or three most important past experiences a successful candidate should have. He noted that many may not be familiar with San Francisco or San Francisco politics. Bob Planthold stated that it would be a benefit to have fresh eyes and that a local candidate may not necessarily be the best or a priority. Larry Bush stated that it was important for the candidate to know how to ask the right questions. Hülda Garfolo stated that the Commission should have someone come in who is going to bring in old habits or taint the efforts of the Commission.
Chairperson Renne then asked whether having a law degree was an important priority. Mr. Planthold stated that it could be helpful, but that the Commission should look at the candidate’s experience in addressing budget shortfalls and training for staff. Mr. Bush stated that the Commission could look to Los Angeles, as that Commission was very successful and its Executive Director did not have a law degree. Charles Marsteller stated that there have been four Executive Directors in Los Angeles that did not have law degrees.
Chairperson Renne mentioned criticism about the former Executive Director after he hired the current Acting Director as his Deputy. He asked whether what type of past legal practice that candidates engaged in – such as representing defendants before the Commission – is an important consideration. Mr. Bush stated that he questioned only the hiring process and that Mr. Mainardi has brought a lot of strengths to the Commission. Mr. Planthold stated that it is important to look at how the candidate’s background makes them worth hiring. Mr. Marsteller stated that he viewed the conflict more broadly and that the community in San Francisco will over-respond to the appearance of conflict. He stated that the Commission’s reputation is hurt by hiring someone who just left working for Jim Sutton. A member of the public stated that the Commission should want someone with a law and policy background, which could come from a variety of areas. He stated that if the Commission chooses someone from a law firm who has caused problems in the past, you just do not know. He suggested that not enough time has gone by. Mr. Planthold stated it was important to look at the candidate’s experience and how s/he would translate it into a different atmosphere.
Vice-Chairperson Andrews stated that, although there may be budgetary restraints, he expects the incoming Executive Director to have more opportunities for professional development, including attending national conferences.
Chairperson Renne stated he would collect potential questions for candidates from members of the public. He stated that Ms. Uyeda has already prepared a detailed draft set of questions. He asked whether the Commission should provide any or all of the questions in advance to the candidates. He stated that the Committee is not trying to see who is the most quick witted verbally and some questions may require thoughtful and prepared answers. Vice-Chairperson Andrews suggested that perhaps a second round of interviews would include more deliberate questions requiring time in advance.
Chairperson Renne stated there were travel and time restraints, as there are notice and agenda requirements anytime he and Vice-Chairperson Andrews meet. He stated that there would be a closed session when they review applications. Mr. Planthold asked whether other members of the Commission would be able to view interviews of candidates. Ms. Uyeda stated that the video interviews are not recorded and are just conducted through skype. Chairperson Renne stated that interviews will not be taking place at City Hall. Ms. Uyeda stated there has not been any pushback regarding the salary and a concern that has been raised is regarding relocation assistance. Vice-Chairperson Andrews stated that the salary is a little low, but was uncertain whether there was anything the Commission could do to change it. Various members of the public suggested that the Commission is not comparable to other City departments and therefore should be provided additional funding for the Director’s salary.
Chairperson Renne asked DCA Shen if there was any restriction on the other members of the Commission reviewing a recorded interview of candidates. DCA Shen stated there could be seriatim meeting issues, and asked whether the recordings would be viewed only after a candidate makes it past the first round. DCA Shen stated he would look into it, as the details are all confidential and sealed.
Ms. Uyeda stated that, after the deadline, her firm will produce a candidate report and DHR would assist in setting up interviews and working with the Committee for interview locations. She stated that DHR would also sit in on the interviews and escort candidates. She stated that DHR would check references and the accuracy of the applications. Chairperson Renne thanked everyone for attending.
The meeting adjourned at 12:17 P.M.