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Executive Director’s Report – October 17, 2016

The report provides various programmatic and operational highlights since the last Commission meeting in September.


Date: October 12, 2016
To: Members of the Ethics Commission
From: LeeAnn Pelham, Executive Director
Subject: AGENDA ITEM 6 – Executive Director’s Report for the October 17, 2016 Ethics Commission Meeting


This report provides various programmatic and operational highlights since the last Commission meeting in September.

Action Requested

No action is required by the Commission, as this item is for informational purposes only.

Organizational and Staff News

With our recent staff re-organization and creation of new programmatic divisions, some programmatic and operational updates that have typically appeared here as part of the Executive Director’s Report will now appear in separate informational reports on the Commission’s meeting agenda. Going forward, separate stand-alone reports will be provided as developments warrant from the Education and Compliance division, and Enforcement and Legal Affairs division.  This change reflects a growing level of activity in those areas and the desire to provide more in-depth information and updates for the Commission and public.

Executive Fellow Began October 3rd

Gayathri Thaikkendiyil began on October 3rd as the Ethics Commission’s new Executive Fellow through October 2017. Gayathri is leading our year-long project to use online technology to help improve compliance, strengthen accountability, and engage the public in a range of our program areas. She has extensive IT experience at American Airlines, where she led large-scale customer technology projects distributed across cross-functional teams and stakeholder engagement efforts. She holds an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin as well as an MS in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Dallas. We look forward to introducing Gayathri at the Commission meeting on October 17.

Job Announcements

Applications for two positions at the Commission are now being accepted for a Senior Policy Analyst (Senior Administrative Analyst position, or 1823) and an Education and Compliance Assistant (Management Assistant position, or 1842). Both positions are exempt from civil service.  Individuals interested in either position can learn more about the positions and apply online at the City’s job opportunities page at the Department of Human Resources website:  Our front office clerk position is also in recruitment. We continue to work with the Department of Human Resources with the goal of finalizing the job announcements and exam documents to launch recruitment for our remaining non-exempt positions by month’s end: two Investigator/Legal Analysts (1823s); one Investigative Analyst (1822); one Policy Analyst (1822); one Auditor (1822); and one Information Systems Business Analyst (1052).

Policy Development Updates

Citywide Relationships Policy

Ethics Commission Staff have been participating in a Department of Human Resources (DHR) working group to develop a policy and guidance for family and romantic relationships at work. The DHR working group is tasked with developing a policy that promotes the maintenance of clear boundaries between family, personal, and working relationships to encourage a working environment that is fair, equitable, and safe; promotes employee morale; and ensures trust in the City’s merit-based employees system. Because Campaign & Governmental Conduct Code section 3.212 gives the Ethics Commission jurisdiction over department heads who participate in an employment action regarding a relative and over officers or employees who make or otherwise influence a decision of the City regarding an employment action involving a relative, Staff are monitoring and participating in the policy making working group to help ensure any policy developed aligns with existing City law.

Records Retention Policy Review

Under the Records Retention and Destruction Ordinance (“RRDO”), which is set forth in Chapter 8 of the City’s Administrative Code, each department head must classify the department’s records, using the classification system set forth in section 8.4 of the Administrative Code, and prepare a schedule for the systematic retention and destruction of those records in accordance with RRDO. RRDO §§ 8.3, 8.4. The Ethics Commission adopted its Records Management Policy on November 3, 2003. The Policy has not been updated since that date, so it does not include retention or destruction classifications for several categories of electronically-stored records, such as emails, appointment calendars, and electronically-filed campaign statements. We are currently evaluating the Commission’s Records Management Policy, as well as records management policies from other local, state, and federal government agencies to develop a set of recommended classifications for records not currently covered in the Policy based on best practices. Staff are researching needed updates and we hope to circulate a list of proposed changes to the Commission for its November meeting. Any proposed changes must be approved by the Controller, City Attorney, and Retirement Board. See RRDO § 8.3. The Commissions’ current Records Management Policy is available at

Annual Policy Plan

An updated copy of the Commission’s Annual Policy Plan appears as Attachment 1 to this report. It has added the two items noted above and the Commission’s request last month to include a review of Sunshine-related policies.

Operations & Audits

Auditors have begun their planned field work on 2015 campaign audits. In addition, four lobbyist audits from the 2014 audit cycle remain to be completed, along with 11 campaign audits and four lobbyist audits selected for the 2015 audit cycle.

Audit staff have also been certifying submissions of publicly financed candidates in connection with the November 2016 election. To date, the 12 City candidates participating in the limited public financing program have been certified to receive approximately $1,190,000 in public funds for their campaigns.  The average amount received by each of the participating candidates is roughly $99,000.  To date, Auditors have evaluated 12 qualifying requests from candidates and 33 requests for matching funds.

As part of the public financing program, expenditure ceilings of participating candidates are required to be adjusted under certain circumstances based on spending in City campaigns. In the past two weeks, Staff have analyzed approximately 50 reports that have disclosed over $775,000 in third-party spending affecting City candidates. As a result of that spending, candidate expenditure ceilings have been raised in Districts 1, 5, 9 and 11.  The highest level to which a candidate’s ceiling has been raised thus far is $580,000.

Notably, approximately 81 percent of third-party spending related to candidates that has been reported to date has occurred in the two-week period from September 26 through October 11.

Other Programmatic Information

Revenue Report

Table 1 shows the revenues received by the Commission during the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2016.

Table 1- Summary of FY 2016-17 Revenues as of October 7, 2016

Source Budgeted Amount FY 16-17 Receipts as of Oct. 7, 2016
Lobbyist Registration Fees $85,000 $6,500
Lobbyists Fines $500 $0
Campaign Consultants Fees $10,000 $4,700
Contact Lobbyist and Other e.g., copies made by Public $4,850 $860
Statement of Economic Interests Filers $1,500 $300
Campaign Consultant Fines 1,000 $0
Campaign Finance Fines (includes late fees and forfeitures) $23,000 $1,517
Ethics, Other/Administrative Fines Levied by the Commission $7,500 $4,050
Total $133,350 $17,362

I look forward to answering any questions you might have in connection with this Executive Director’s report at the upcoming Commission meeting.

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