Accusation Issued Against Former Mayoral Candidate for Campaign Recordkeeping and Disclosure Violations
May 17, 2018
Ethics Commission Executive Director LeeAnn Pelham today issued an Accusation following a finding of probable cause by the Ethics Commission that former Supervisor John Avalos and the John Avalos for Mayor 2011 committee violated campaign recordkeeping and disclosure provisions of City law on 10 counts in connection with Avalos’ 2011 Mayoral campaign. The Ethics Commission made the probable cause determination at its meeting on May 7, 2018, and its regulations require the Executive Director to issue the Accusation as a public document. The Commission will now schedule an administrative hearing on the merits to determine whether violations have occurred in fact, and, if so, what penalties should be assessed.
The Accusation alleges that Avalos and his 2011 Mayoral campaign committee violated Sections 1.106 and 1.109 of the San Francisco Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance by failing to properly document more than $100,000 in expenditures and more than $2,000 in non-monetary contributions and failing to timely report nearly $140,000 in expenditures as required by City law. As a candidate who received public funds in connection with his campaign, Avalos was audited by the Ethics Commission beginning in early 2012. The findings stem chiefly from that mandatory campaign audit, which was issued in 2015.
A determination of probable cause to believe a violation of law has occurred may be found only if a person of ordinary caution and prudence would conclude, based on the evidence, that there is a reasonable ground to suspect that the respondent has committed the violation. A finding of probable cause does not constitute a finding that a violation has occurred. As with all cases considered by the Ethics Commission, respondents are presumed innocent of any violation of City law unless and until such time that the violation is determined by the Commission at a public hearing. Charter section C3.699-13 authorizes the Commission to assess penalties of up to $5,000 for each violation or three times the amount that a respondent failed to report, whichever is greater.
Neither the Commission nor its staff comment on enforcement matters until after a final determination has been made. A copy of the Accusation can be found here.
The Ethics Commission, established in November 1993, serves the public, City employees and officials and candidates for public office through education and enforcement of ethics laws, including the assessment of fines through its administrative enforcement authority. Its duties include: filing and auditing of campaign finance disclosure statements, lobbyist and campaign consultant registration and regulation, administration of the public financing program, whistleblower program, conflict of interest reporting, investigations and enforcement, education and training, advice giving and statistical reporting. We invite you to follow our work at https://www.sfethics.org.