January 9, 2018
At its meeting on Friday, January 19, 2018, the San Francisco Ethics Commission will consider a proposal to revise the Ethics Commission Regulations for Investigations and Enforcement Proceedings, which will likewise incorporate a revised version of the Ethics Commission Regulations for Handling Violations of the Sunshine Ordinance. The changes are recommended by Commission Staff to make the Regulations—and the processes they govern—more fair, clear, transparent, and efficient for the public, regulated entities, and the Commission. This 10-day notice is provided under Charter Section 4.104 to encourage public comment on the proposals in time for the Commission’s next meeting. A copy of the proposed Enforcement Regulations can be accessed here.
Proposed Regulations Updated after the Ethics Commission’s December 18, 2017, Meeting
At its December 18, 2017 meeting, the Ethics Commission considered a final draft of Staff’s proposed Enforcement Regulations and advised Staff to revise the regulations so that complainants and respondents could reserve some of their allotted speaking time for rebuttal. See Section 10(B)(1)(iii). Staff made the requested change, which is reflected in the regulations attached to this notice. In addition, Staff has received advice from the City Attorney’s Office that a proposed provision giving the Ethics Commission authority to impose administrative penalties against city employees who violate the Sunshine Ordinance is subject to meet and confer with the City’s bargaining units before it can be added as a Commission regulation. See Section 10(B)(1)(v). Accordingly, Staff has removed that provision from the pending regulations so that Staff can engage with the City’s labor unions regarding a new policy that will impact employee rights and responsibilities. Staff will bring this proposal to the Commission for action at a future meeting once the meet and confer process has concluded.
Summary of Proposal
As proposed, the revised set of Enforcement Regulations to be considered by the Commission on January 19, 2018, will:
- Delegate responsibility for conducting probable cause conferences and making probable cause determinations from the Ethics Commission to the Executive Director, to increase due process protections for respondents by preserving the neutrality of Commissioners until for a hearing on the merits;
- Delegate responsibility to conduct investigations from the Executive Director to the Deputy Director for Enforcement, to increase due process protections for respondents by preserving the Executive Director’s neutrality for making probable cause determinations;
- Use the Executive Director’s written determination of a Finding of Probable Cause as the charging document for administrative hearing purposes instead of creating a duplicative Accusation document for that purpose, a streamlining procedure designed to increase efficiency and promote more timely enforcement proceedings;
- Require the Ethics Commission to consider proposed settlement agreements in public session and allow for certain stipulations to be heard by consent calendar, to increase the transparency and efficiency of the Commission’s case resolution processes;
- Combine portions of the Ethics Commission Regulations for Handling Violations of the Sunshine Ordinance with the Enforcement Regulations, while preserving the integrity of both the authority and jurisdictional responsibilities of the Ethics Commission and Sunshine Ordinance Task Force under the City’s Sunshine Ordinance, to increase efficiency in the conduct of investigations, clarify jurisdiction, and strengthen collaboration between the Commission and the Task Force;
- Permit the Commission to enter Default Orders when respondents fail to meet their obligation to participate in an enforcement action, to increase efficiency and promote just outcomes;
- Codify Commission policy to waive late filing fees for filing deadlines that fall on weekends and City holidays and amend the late filing fee waiver policy to reflect the requirements of the enabling ordinances, to increase fairness.
The Commission invites all input on the proposed regulations and encourages public participation during its special meeting on January 19, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. in Room 416 of San Francisco City Hall, 1 Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco, California. Written public comment received by 5:00 pm on Wednesday, Monday, January 15, 2018, will be included in the Commission’s packet of meeting materials for its January 19th meeting. Opportunity for public comment will also be provided during the Commission’s meeting.
Staff welcomes written comments on the proposed changes, which can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or via regular mail to San Francisco Ethics Commission, 25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 220, San Francisco, CA 94102.