Minutes of the Regular Meeting of
The San Francisco Ethics Commission
September 28, 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 5:31 PM.
COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT: Paul Renne, Chairperson; Beverly Hayon, Commissioner; Ben Hur, Commissioner (Brett Andrews, Vice-Chairperson, and Peter Keane, Commissioner, were both excused absent).
STAFF PRESENT: Jesse Mainardi, Acting Executive Director; Catherine Argumedo, Investigator/Legal Analyst; Garrett Chatfield, Investigator/Legal Analyst; Steven Massey, Information Technology Officer.
OFFICE OF THE CITY ATTORNEY: Andrew Shen, Deputy City Attorney (DCA); Joshua White, DCA.
OTHERS PRESENT: David Pilpel; Larry Bush; Jonathan Mintzer; Eileen Hansen; Charley Marsteller; and other unidentified members of the public.
– Acting Executive Director’s Report;
– Draft minutes of the Regular Ethics Commission Meeting on August 24, 2015.
II. Public comment on matters appearing or not appearing on the agenda.
III. Hearing on the Merits in Re: Ethics Complaint No. 19-131115, In the Matter of Lynette Sweet and Lynette Sweet for Supervisor 2010, Respondents. This matter concerns alleged violations California Government Code section 84200 (failure to file campaign statements); California Government Code section 84104 (failure to maintain records); and San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code section 1.118 (failure to pay accrued debts within 180 days).
Acting Executive Director Mainardi announced that this item was continued by the Commission Chair at the request of the respondent.
David Pilpel stated that if there was a written copy of the request for continuance, it should be made available to the public. He stated that there is public interest in this matter.
IV. Presentation by Information Technology Officer Steven Massey regarding pending changes to the Commission’s website.
Acting Executive Director Mainardi introduced Steven Massey, Information Technology Officer for the Commission.
Mr. Massey presented the proposed new website design to the Commission.
Responding to a question from Commissioner Hur, Mr. Massey stated that the entire cost of the project to date was $300 plus his time.
The Commissioners all thanked Mr. Massey for his work.
David Pilpel thanked Mr. Massey for his work. He stated that other City departments would have spent a significant amount of money implementing a similar project. He stated that the enforcement chart should show the name of the respondent.
Larry Bush stated that he had a meeting with the City’s Controller and stated that the Controller’s Office returns two million dollars back to the City each year. He stated that some of that money could be used to integrate filing systems.
Jonathan Mintzer stated that on the current website, advice letters are not searchable and that he would like to see a search feature on the new website.
Eileen Hansen asked Mr. Massey regarding the viability of the Commission’s current website host.
Mr. Massey responded to Ms. Hansen stating that the new website has been created on a platform that can easily be transferred to different hosting companies.
V. Discussion and possible action regarding Commission activities relating to its expenditure lobbyist ballot measure.
Chair Renne introduced the item and stated that he and Acting Executive Director Mainardi have attended several meetings to present the ballot measure to interested groups. He stated that he makes it clear at those meetings that the Commission cannot advocate for the ballot measure’s passage.
Larry Bush stated that the ballot measure has the support of former Mayors Art Agnos and Dianne Feinstein, as well as Mayor Lee. He stated that several unions have expressed concern regarding how the ballot measure may affect their organizations and that the Commission should issue a “FAQ” sheet to address those concerns.
David Pilpel stated that the Commission should also consider issuing a “FAQ” sheet on how the ballot measure will affect non-profit groups.
VI. Discussion and possible action regarding the Commission’s search for a new Executive Director.
[Acting Executive Director Mainardi left the well for this item.]
Chair Renne stated that the Executive Director Search committee met on Friday, September 25, 2015, to review applications. He stated that the committee decided not to reopen the position because it was satisfied with the caliber of applicants. He stated that the committee determined that there were five applicants that it would invite to interview.
David Pilpel stated that he appreciated the Commission’s transparent process of the Executive Director search. He asked how many total applications that the Commission received. Chair Renne stated that there were a total of 31 applicants.
Charley Marsteller asked if the Commission would require applicants to write an essay as part of the interview process. Chair Renne stated that applicants will be provided with four questions in advance of the interview so that they can present a reasoned response. In response to Mr. Marsteller, Chair Renne stated that the committee will interview the five candidates by Skype first, and then move any successful candidates to interview with the full Commission.
Eileen Hansen stated that she had suggested to the committee that it consider enlisting a member of the public to sit with the committee during the candidate interviews to offer public input. Chair Renne stated that, at this point in the process, enlisting a member of the public to be part of the selection process would be problematic and might delay the process.
Commissioner Hur stated that the Commission has made great efforts to keep the Executive Director search transparent and has engaged with the public throughout the process.
Commissioner Hayon stated that, although she thought Ms. Hansen’s suggestion was interesting, it would create unnecessary conflict. She stated that it would be incredibly difficult to determine who should sit on the committee as a member of the public.
Larry Bush stated that the Commission should consider holding interviews after the election in November as the election results will provide guidance to the Commission on what the public thinks.
VII. Discussion and possible action on the Commission’s August 24, 2015 draft meeting minutes.
[Acting Executive Director Mainardi returned to the well for this item.]
David Pilpel made several suggestions to help clarify the minutes. He stated that on page four of the minutes, staff should indicate when and for which items individuals entered and left the hearing room during closed session.
Motion 150928-01: (Hur/Hayon) Moved, seconded, and passed (3-0; Andrews and Keane excused) that the Commission approve the draft minutes, subject to changes on page four regarding closed session.
VIII. Discussion of Acting Executive Director’s Report.
Acting Executive Director Mainardi stated that the Commission has distributed significant public funds to two candidates in the District 3 Supervisorial race. He also publicly recognized former Ethics Commission staff member Malika Alim who accepted a new position with the Health Service System. He stated that the Commission has sent out 65 invitations to various groups to join the Commission’s interested persons list, and six have accepted.
Commissioner Hur thanked Chair Renne and Acting Executive Director Mainardi for attending informational meetings regarding the Commission’s ballot measure.
David Pilpel stated that Ms. Alim was a great employee and that she will be missed.
IX. Items for future meetings.
Chair Renne stated that he would like to discuss the enforcement procedures at a future meeting. He stated that he would like to determine if there is a way to expedite enforcement matters that may have a bearing on an upcoming election.
Commissioner Hur stated that he also would like to address the enforcement procedures.
Charley Marsteller stated that the Commission should look to other Ethics agencies to see if any streamlined enforcement procedures could be used as a guide for San Francisco.
David Pilpel stated that the enforcement procedures should be reviewed, and that there could be a system of prioritization to handle more pressing matters over older cases.
Larry Bush stated that he agreed with Chair Renne that the enforcement procedures should be revised. He stated that the Commission could establish a clear set of guidelines regarding penalties.
Eileen Hansen stated that she also agreed with Chair Renne regarding the revision of the enforcement procedures. She stated that complaints can be filed that could affect an election, but would not be resolved prior to the election because of the procedures.
Commissioner Hayon stated that the department should look at how the workload is distributed.
X. Discussion and possible action regarding complaints received or initiated by the Ethics Commission concerning:
(1) California Government Code section 84104 (failure to maintain committee records) and California Government Code section 84211 (failure to disclose contributions);
(2) California Government Code section 84104 (failure to maintain committee records), California Government Code section 84211 (failure to disclose contributions), San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code section 1.114(a) (exceeding contribution limit), and San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code section 1.118(a) (failure to pay for accrued expenses);
(3) California Government Code sections 82013, 84100 et seq. (failure to register and report as a political committee);
(4) San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code section 1.162(a) (failure to include disclaimer in appropriate font size); and
(5) California Government Code section 84211 (failure to report independent expenditures), and San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code sections 1.152(a) (failure to file “24 hour” report), 1.160.5 (failure to report persuasion poll), and 1.161(a) (failure to include proper disclaimers on campaign signs).
Eileen Hansen requested that the Commission estimate how long it will be in closed session.
Motion 150928-02: (Hur/Hayon) Moved, seconded, and passed (3-0; Andrews and Keane excused) that the Commission go into closed session.
The Commission went into closed session at 6:49 PM. All members of the public left the hearing room. DCA Shen left the hearing room and DCA White entered the hearing room to advise the Commission during closed session. Chair Renne, Commissioner Hayon, Commissioner Hur, Acting Executive Director Mainardi, staff member Argumedo and staff member Chatfield remained in the hearing room.
At 7:48 PM, Acting Executive Director Mainardi left the hearing room during Items (1) and (2), which were heard after items (3), (4), and (5).
At 8:03 PM, the Commission returned to open session.
Motion 150928-03: (Hayon/Hur) Moved, seconded, and passed (3-0; Andrews and Keane excused) that the Commission not disclose its closed session deliberations.
Chair Renne stated that the Commission approved two settlement agreements during closed session.
Eileen Hansen asked for a reason as to why the Commission will not disclose its closed session deliberations. Chair Renne stated that the matters are confidential and ongoing.
Motion 150928-04: (Hayon/Hur) Moved, seconded, and passed (3-0; Andrews and Keane excused) that the Commission adjourn.
The Commission adjourned the meeting at 8:08 PM.