Ethics Commission
City and County of San Francisco

Minutes – October 26, 2015

Minutes of the Regular Meeting of
The San Francisco Ethics Commission
October 26, 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; Brett Andrews, Vice-Chairperson; Beverly Hayon, Commissioner; Ben Hur, Commissioner; and Peter Keane, Commissioner. 

STAFF PRESENT: Jesse Mainardi, Acting Executive Director; Catherine Argumedo, Investigator/Legal Analyst; Garrett Chatfield, Investigator/Legal Analyst.

OFFICE OF THE CITY ATTORNEY: Andrew Shen, Deputy City Attorney (DCA); Joshua White, DCA.

OTHERS PRESENT: Dr. Derek Kerr; Lynette Sweet; David Pilpel; Charles Marsteller; Eileen Hansen; Elena Schmidt; and other unidentified members of the public. 

MATERIALS DISTRIBUTED:

  • Draft Annual Report for FY 14-15;
  • Acting Executive Director’s Report;
  • Draft minutes of the Regular Ethics Commission Meeting on September 28, 2015.

II. Public comment on matters appearing or not appearing on the agenda.

Dr. Derek Kerr stated that it was odd that in its 20-year history, the Ethics Commission has not substantiated a single WB retaliation claim.  He stated that the Acting Director presented a staff work plan and does not address retaliation investigations.

The following written summary was provided by the speaker, Dr. Derek Kerr, the content of which is neither generated by, nor subject to approval or verification of accuracy by, the Ethics Commission:

Does it not strike you as odd that in its 20-year history, the Ethics Commission hasn't sustained a single whistleblower retaliation complaint? After this year's Civil Grand Jury report, this issue should be examined. Instead, the Acting Director's Report presents a Work Plan listing 10 topics for your consideration – and none addresses retaliation investigations and their failure to sustain any claims. Four months after the Grand Jury pointed out the problem, there are no visible plans to deal with it. Your draft Annual Report doesn't specify how many retaliation complaints were upheld. Reading between the lines, none were sustained – as usual. The Annual Report should specify the number of substantiated retaliation claims. The prominent display of zeroes, year after year, might move someone on the Commission to realize that something isn't right.

III. Discussion and possible action regarding complaint  received or initiated by the Ethics Commission concerning San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code section 3.218 (incompatible activities).

Public Comment:
Lynette Sweet asked to address the Commission.  Chairperson Renne stated that the item did not relate to her.

David Pilpel asked why the item was separated from the other matters in closed session.  Chairperson Renne stated that it was requested for personal reasons.

Motion 151026-01: (Hur/Keane) Moved, seconded, and passed (5-0) that the Commission move into closed session.

The Commission went into closed session at 5:35 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.  All Commissioners, Acting Executive Director Mainardi, staff member Argumedo, staff member Chatfield, Respondent, Joseph Cotchett, Nancy Fineman, and Jay Huish remained in the hearing room.  At 6:33 PM, the Commission returned to open session.

Motion 151026-02: (Hur/Keane) Moved, seconded, and passed (5-0) that the Commission not disclose its closed session deliberations.

            Public Comment:
None. 

IV. Discussion and possible action regarding Commission activities relating to its expenditure lobbyist ballot measure (Proposition C).

Chairperson Renne stated that he and Acting Executive Director Mainardi had been making fewer appearances to interested groups to present the ballot measure to interested groups. 

Public Comment:
None.

V. Discussion and possible action on an Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2014-2015. 

Vice-Chairperson Andrews suggested a change on page 11 – to list what was approved and what was spent.  He stated that adding future initiatives may be better included in a separate document.  Commissioner Renne suggested a change on page 5, referring to Proposition C.  He stated that the Annual Report should include more information than what was provided in the draft.  He stated that the Commission had unanimously approved to put it on the ballot and that there had been a lot of discussion.  Chairperson Renne agreed with Commissioner Keane’s suggestions and added that the draft should include more history of the measure.  He suggested that the paragraph be expanded and redrafted.  He also suggested adding a reference that Commissioner Hur had been working on a report regarding the whistleblower statute.

Motion 151026-03: (Hur/Keane) Moved, seconded, and passed (5-0) that the Commission approve the draft Annual Report, subject to final approval of the Chair.

Public Comment:
Charles Marsteller stated that the report did not include the $191,000 forfeiture.  He agreed with the suggestion to add more information regarding the history of Proposition C. 

David Pilpel stated that the logo on the front page was off center.  He suggested adding the Acting Director’s name and date to the front page.  He agreed with the comments about Proposition C.

Eileen Hansen suggested that the draft come back to the full Commission for further public comment.  She suggested adding more specific information about Proposition C and mentioning the hiring of the new Executive Director.

Elena Schmidt suggested more information about Proposition C.  She stated that the report had four lines about the Proposition and 18 lines on the interns.  She asked why the Commission is not asking for more money to hire more staff.  She also suggested adding discussion on hiring a Commission Secretary.

A member of the public stated that there was no mention of the conversion to electronic filing for the Forms 700.

VI. Discussion of Acting Executive Director’s Report.

Vice-Chairperson Andrews asked about number 10 in the report, regarding the two-year budgets.  Acting Executive Director Mainardi stated that he had not yet participated in any meetings with the Mayor’s Office, but that the Ethics Commission is one of 37 departments to be on this type of plan.  Vice-Chairperson Andrews stated that he is interested in a Commission Secretary position.

Public Comment:
David Pilpel, speaking as an individual, stated that there may need to be a discussion about directives or initiatives after a new Executive Director is appointed.  He suggested that the Commission have two meetings regarding the budget to allow for public comment.

Eileen Hansen referenced the campaign finance disclosure program on page 2.  She stated that it would be useful to know where in the process the $191,000 fine is at BDR. 

Chairperson Renne stated that the Acting Executive Director sent out notices or invitations to a number of organizations to be on the interested persons list.  Acting Director Mainardi stated that staff has been reaching out to 50-60 groups per month.

Charles Marsteller stated that Planning has a large database of community organizations.

VII. Items for future meetings.

Vice-Chairperson Andrews stated that he would like to discuss the Commission Secretary position.  He stated that he would like to have a job description in case there is a funding opportunity.  Commissioner Keane agreed.

Commission Hur suggested having two meetings to discuss the budget.

Public Comment:
David Pilpel, speaking as an individual, stated that the Commission should discuss the budget in December.  He also asked whether the items for future meetings were documented anywhere besides the minutes.

Eileen Hansen suggested a review of the complaint process and procedure, review of the Annual Report, and an annual retreat with the incoming Executive Director.

Charles Marsteller stated that staff should not only wait to receive a complaint in order to review an issue.

VIII. Discussion and possible action on the Commission’s September 28, 2015 draft meeting minutes. 

Chairperson Renne stated that, in reference to Item 6 on page XX, the number of questions was actually four.  He stated that members of the public had provided a list of 13 questions.

Motion 151026-04: (Andrews/Hayon) Moved and seconded that the Commission approve the September 28, 2015 minutes, as amended.

Public Comment:
David Pilpel stated that Commissioners conducting the new Executive Director search is not a sub-committee, but a committee.  He stated that the closed session item on page 5 does not make clear for which items Acting Director Mainardi left the room.

Motion 151026-05: (Hur/Hayon) Moved, seconded, and passed (5-0) that the Commission approve the September 28, 2015 minutes, with suggested amendments.

[The Commission took public comment for Items IX and X before moving into closed session.]

IX. Discussion and possible action regarding complaints received or initiated by the Ethics Commission concerning:


(1)  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);


(2)  San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code section 1.161 (failure to include disclaimers), California Government Code sections 84101 (failure to register as a committee), 84203 (failure to file a late contribution report), and 84200.5 (failure to file pre-election statement);

(3)  San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code section 2.110 (failure to report lobbying contacts); and

(4)  San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code section 2.110 (failure to register and report as a lobbyist).

Motion 151026-06: (Hur/Keane) Moved, seconded, and passed (5-0) that the Commission move into closed session for Item IX.

Public Comment:
David Pilpel stated that he saw Ms. Sweet earlier.  Chairperson Renne confirmed that there was nothing on the agenda relating to her.

Eileen Hansen asked how long the closed sessions would take.  Chairperson Renne stated that the Commission would not come back into open session before 8:15.

The Commission went into closed session at 7:39 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.  All Commissioners, Acting Executive Director Mainardi, staff member Argumedo, and staff member Chatfield remained in the hearing room.  At 8:23 PM, this agenda item was concluded and DCA White, Acting Executive Director Mainardi, Ms. Argumedo, and Mr. Chatfield left the hearing room. 

X. Discussion and possible action regarding the Commission’s appointment of a new Executive Director. 

Motion 151026-07: (Hur/Keane) Moved, seconded, and passed (5-0) that the Commission move into closed session for Item X.

Public Comment:
David Pilpel asked what would occur during this agenda item.  Chairperson Renne stated that the Commissioners would be provided with the resumes and backgrounds of the individuals who are being invited to meet with the full Commission on November 13.  He stated that the Commission is keeping November 20 open in case the full Commission needs more meeting time regarding the hiring.  He noted that, if the Commission arrived at a decision on the 13th, there would be no public disclosure as there are other communications that need to happen first.

At 8:27 PM, DCA Shen entered the hearing room to advise the Commission and the Commission began discussion of this agenda item.  Commissioner Hur was excused at 8:55 PM.  The Commission returned to open session at 8:57 PM.

            Motion 151026-08: (Keane/Hayon) Moved, seconded, and passed (4-0; Hur excused) that the Commission not disclose its closed session deliberations for agenda item IX.

Public Comment:
None.

Chairperson Renne announced that the Commission voted to dismiss the first two items listed and approved settlement agreements in the last two items listed in agenda item IX.

            Motion 151026-09: (Keane/Andrews) Moved, seconded, and passed (4-0; Hur excused) that the Commission not disclose its closed session deliberations for agenda item X.

Public Comment:
None.

XI. Adjournment.

Motion 151026-10: (Keane/Hayon) Moved, seconded, and passed (4-0; Hur excused) that the Commission adjourn.

The Commission adjourned the meeting at 9:02 PM. 

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