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Executive Director’s Report – November 8, 2019

To: Members of the Ethics Commission
From: LeeAnn Pelham, Executive Director
Subject:Agenda Item 8 – Executive Director’s Report for the November 2019 Commission Meeting


This report provides various programmatic and operational highlights to date since the last monthly Executive Director’s Report.

Action Requested

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

This Fall, Commission staff have been pursuing a number of resource and organizational planning initiatives to support our capacity to broaden the impact of the Ethics Commission’s mandate in this fiscal year. In addition to our ongoing operational and programmatic work, we have been closely assessing ongoing projects, identifying continuing areas of need, and developing strategies and resource allocations necessary to make continuous improvement to achieve and sustain three key goals:

  • strong laws that are well implemented, with timely and effective oversight;
  • effectively promoting a broadened understanding and awareness of the laws administered and enforced by the Commission; and
  • ongoing public service excellence, including operational transparency and accountability.

As reported in my August Executive Director’s report, the Staff performance review and goal setting process had then been initiated as an opportunity annually to identify achievements and enable dedicated time for discussions about alignment of our work with core public service principles and general performance expectations, such as standards that address customer service orientation, equity and inclusiveness in the workplace, and continuous improvement. Through those discussions and feedback and an assessment of ongoing operational and programmatic needs, last month we finalized our office-wide operational work plan for FY20 and have now completed individual meetings with each member of the staff to align specific individual work goals and objectives with our key organizational goals for the year ahead.

With these operational plans in place and the November 2019 election now behind us, this month’s Executive Director’s report focuses on some highlights of the operational and programmatic work underway.

Election 2019

The November 2019 election was the first in which various new provisions of law proposed by the Ethics Commission were in place. First, many committees were required to file a third pre-election statement for the first time following the enactment of the Anti-Corruption and Accountability Ordinance (ACAO). This additional statement, which goes beyond the state law requirement of two pre-election statements, is due four days before the election and discloses financial activity during the final two weeks of a campaign. In this election, the third pre-election statements filed by committees disclosed roughly $734,000 in spending on candidate races and $905,000 in spending on ballot measures. This data, much of which would otherwise not have been available until after the election, further supported the Commission’s ongoing mission to make campaign finance data accessible and comprehensive. These efforts are centered around the continued refinement of the Commission’s data dashboards, which update daily to include the latest financial information filed by committees. During the election, Staff continued to analyze user feedback to make sure the dashboards served the needs of the press and general public. Overall, total spending by candidate committees reached more than $3.75 million, and, in addition, there was roughly $1.36 million in reported third party spending to support or oppose City candidates. This made for a total of roughly $5.1 million spent on candidate races, with roughly $3 million being spent in the District Attorney race alone. Another $28.5 million in spending was reported on the six ballot measures decided in the November 5 election, with $24.6 million of that attributable to spending on one measure, Proposition C.

In addition to the third pre-election statement, new public financing laws also applied to the November 2019 election. These changes were enacted by the Phase I ordinance approved by the Commission earlier this year. These changes included a later deadline for the Statement of Participation, the discontinuation of the “contingency account,” and a streamlined mechanism for adjusting spending limits. These legislative changes were accompanied by amendments to the public financing regulations and improvements to the guidance materials available to candidates. The goal of these changes was to make the program easier to navigate for participants. Staff will be evaluating how well the changes served this goal and will include this analysis in the post-election public financing report that Staff delivers to the Board of Supervisors and Mayor following each election. Staff anticipates this report being completed in the spring of 2020 and will present it to the Commission at that time.

Program Implementation

Reporting by the San Francisco Elections Department shows that Proposition F, the “Sunshine on Dark Money Initiative,” received 76 percent of the vote on the November 5 ballot. That measure enacts new restrictions on campaign contributions to local elected officials and candidates and applies new disclaimer requirements to campaign advertisements. For planning purposes, Ethics Commission Staff began several weeks ago to identify next steps necessary should the measure be approved. With voting in the election now over, Staff have begun to take steps to implement the measure once it becomes effective, including updating of compliance information and tools to enable the reporting of new information in connection with the March 2020 election that will now be required under the law to be reported.

Over the past several months the Engagement & Compliance division continued to provide significant support in connection with November’s disclosure requirements and filings. In addition, focused filer support and guidance in implementing other provisions of the ACAO was also provided, including through web updates and informational notices as needed to help promote understanding of the law and compliance with its provisions. In September, implementation of these new electronic filing formats was capped off with a customized version of Form 126f4 for the Board of Supervisors contract reporting process for notice requirements of the City’s contractor contribution rules of SF Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code Sec 1.126. A link to the Commission’s webpage providing public disclosures from filed contract approval notifications can be accessed here. For other requirements applicable to City officers, more than 40 Notifications of Recusals (Forms SFEC-3209b) have been filed with the Commission since mid-September. Information about this ACAO requirement and the resulting disclosures can be accessed here.

During the period leading up to the September 26 filing of November first pre-election statements, the two new disclosure statements that generated the most filer support and guidance activity for the Engagement and Compliance team were filings applicable to political committees for reporting Behested Contributions Received by Committees (Form 114.5) and Contributions Made by Business Entities (Form 124). Datasets detailing information disclosed on these statements can be accessed from the dataset page for campaign finance disclosures on Commission’s website.

Lobbying Program Administrative Review

Currently, nearly 200 contact lobbyists are registered with the Commission and are required to file monthly disclosure reports disclosing their lobbying contacts, payments promised by clients, and other activities. In this calendar year through September 30, 2019, registered contact lobbyists have reported over $9.8 million on their reports as payments promised by clients. Two expenditure lobbyists are also registered with the Commission under Proposition C, which became effective in February 2016 after its placement on the ballot by the Ethics Commission and its approval by San Francisco voters in November 2015. It imposes registration and reporting requirements on “expenditure lobbyists” that urge the public to lobby City officials.

Following authorization and funding of additional Engagement & Compliance resources beginning in July 2018, staffing resources were able to be planned for dedication to the Lobbying Program. Since joining the Commission staff in late February 2019, Engagement & Compliance Senior Program Administrator John Kim has taken a deep dive into the administrative and operational practices of the Program to evaluate program operations and identify needed process improvements. Building on more real time compliance support for questions received and the ability to review statements filed within three days of a filing deadline, new program practices have been able to support amendments of data filed to better ensure full and complete public information for filings submitted. Standardizing the use of pre-filing courtesy notices has also been implemented to remind filers of their upcoming filing obligation. If late, filers are notified of the late filing on the first business day following the filing deadline. In collaboration with internal IS Staff and assisted by ongoing feedback by filers and the public, evaluation of improvements related to filing system needs have also benefitted from improved awareness of both filer and public needs for the lobbying disclosure program.

Enforcement Process Improvements and Late Fee Collections

As noted in this month’s Staff Enforcement report, as an outgrowth of the Commission’s discussions earlier this Fall about enforcement process improvements, steps are now underway to implement new discretionary factors to help streamline enforcement casework and better support top investigative priorities. Groundwork to structure the new Streamlined Administrative Resolution Program is also underway to increase predictability and transparency for the kinds of matters that do not require substantial investigation and to free up resources in FY20 for more complex investigations.  As a result of Staff’s FY20 operational planning, steps have been identified and are being implemented to transition the Commission’s late fee collection efforts for the lobbying and financial disclosure reporting programs to the Late Fee Collections program within enforcement to provide enhanced oversight and improved standardization of that work across programs. Staff looks forward to providing further updates on this work as it continues to develop.

Audit Program

Under the Commission’s authority in SF Campaign & Governmental Conduct Code Sec. 1.150, the Ethics Commission audits committees active in City elections to promote transparency and accountability in campaign activities and ensure committee activities are conducted and reported in compliance with applicable laws.

All 27 campaign audits from the 2016 election cycle are now completed. For audits being performed in connection with the 2018 election, 14 are mandatory audits of publicly financed candidates and 11 others were selected for discretionary audit. Audit work on the 14 publicly financed candidates’ committees began in early 2019 and is expected to be completed at the end of the calendar year. The 11 discretionary audits being conducted by Commission Staff are targeted for completion by the end of the fiscal year.

Technology Update

As shown in the Attached Table 1, the Commission’s IT Team in the Electronic Disclosure and Data Analysis Division (EDDA) continues to focus on delivering a broad range of technology projects to implement new and ongoing public disclosure programs at the Commission, including electronic forms, public data systems, and administering contracts with our professional service providers. The overview provided in Table 1 provides an updated snapshot since mid-2018 of projects deployed to-date and highlights some of the key items what we have planned for FY20.

Outreach Activities

On October 16, Senior Policy and Legislative Affairs Counsel Pat Ford and Principal Program Manager for Engagement and Compliance Rachel Gage presented an informational briefing with the City’s Contract Monitoring Division of the Office of Contract Administration. The purpose of the session was to provide employees with information about their ethics duties under the law.  As also noted in the Policy Staff report this month, Ethics Commission staff will be meeting with members of City bargaining units on November 12 to consult on Statements of Economic Interests (Form 700) project to extend online filing to all designated filers in the City.

Commission Staff have implemented various practices to provide transparency and insight into the Commission’s work and the disclosures it receives. The most notable are the monthly Staff reports provided at each regular Commission meeting; annual reports on the department’s budget submission; interactive online research tools that make disclosures easily available to the public; and regular discussions by the Commission to plan, sequence, and consider a range of policy issues. Each of these practices has made the Commission’s work more relevant and visible to the public and has facilitated meaningful stakeholder engagement. To further increase this impact, Staff are preparing an annual report to cover major activities and accomplishments during 2019. This report will be an opportunity to take a high-level look at the Commission’s recent work, providing valuable context for assessing the Commission’s progress toward meeting its voter mandate in the past year. Preparation of the Ethics Commission 2019 Annual Report began last month and is planned for release in early 2020.

Staffing and Hiring News

As noted in my October Executive Director’s report, we have been continuing to work closely with Client Services at the Department of Human Resources to make progress on our staffing vacancies. I am happy to report this month that we have now filled the Senior Clerk position that was vacated at the end of 2018.

Ronald Contreraz joined the staff on November 6th as our new Senior Clerk on the Engagement & Compliance team. Ronald will be working closely with Deputy Director/Chief Programs Officer Gayathri Thaikkendiyil and the E&C team as our initial point of public contact for the office and in handling a wide range of operational and programmatic support. He joins the Staff from the City’s Department of Human Resources where he was serving as a temporary Test Technician. Before joining the City, he worked with the City and County of Denver for over 24 years in various functions, most recently with the Department of Aviation/Denver International Airport in the Commercial Division as a Contract Administrator/OPS Manager for over nine years. Prior to that role Ronald worked as a Computer User Support Liaison, Human Resources Clerical Supervisor, and Purchasing Agent. He also worked as a Court Clerk at Denver County Court for three years.

Niike Andino, who had been supporting our front office work over the past 10 months as a temporary, as-needed Junior Management Assistant, recently accepted a promotional opportunity for a full-time, permanent position with the City’s Department of Public Health. Niike’s last day in the office was Friday, November 1, and we wish him all the best of luck and continued success in his new role at DPH, where he started on November 4th.

We will continue to prioritize our work with DHR to make further progress toward filling four other staffing vacancies:

Table 2 – Position Vacancies

Position Working Title Workgroup Status Type Job Class Title/No
Investigative Analyst Enforcement Division Position posting pending. Vacancy/non-exempt Administrative Analyst (1822)
Senior Information Systems Business Analyst Electronic Disclosure &  Data Analysis Division Position posting under review. Vacancy/non-exempt Senior Information Systems Business Analyst (1053)
Principal Program Manager for Audits Audit Division Review of position posting pending. Vacancy/non-exempt Principal Administrative Analyst (1824)
Policy Analyst Policy Division Review of position posting pending. Vacancy/non-exempt Senior Administrative Analyst (1823)

Additional updates regarding these positions will be shared as they become available.

Revenues Report

The table below shows the revenues received by the Commission during the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2019, as of November 7, 2019.

Table 3 – Summary to Date of FY19-20 Revenues

Source FY 19-20 Budgeted Amount FY 19-20 Receipts as of November 7, 2019
Lobbyist Registration Fees $85,000 $8,850
Lobbyists Fines $2,000 $3,400
Campaign Consultants Fees $7,000 $6,550
Contact Lobbyist and Other e.g., copies made by public $2,450 0
Statement of Economic Interests Filings-Late Fees $1,250 $100
Campaign Consultant Fines $2,000 $50
Campaign Finance Fines (includes late fees and forfeitures) $50,000 $51,929
Ethics, Other/ Administrative Fines Levied by the Commission $7,500 $11,000
Major Developer Fee $0 0
Total $157,200 $81,879

Lastly, due to the City’s observance of Veterans Day on Monday, November 11, the Commission’s offices will be closed.  As a result, all Commission meeting materials for the November 15 monthly meeting materials are being posted publicly and distributed electronically on Friday, November 8.

I look forward to answering any questions you might have at the upcoming Commission meeting.

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