To: Members of the Ethics Commission
From: LeeAnn Pelham, Executive Director
Subject: Agenda Item 3 – Executive Director’s Report for July 2020
This report provides various programmatic and operational highlights since the last Executive Director’s Report.
No action is required by the Commission, as this item is for informational purposes only.
Following the Commission’s last meeting on February 21, 2020, the emergence of the COVID-19 public health crisis has had an unprecedented impact on the operations of government at all levels. Unparalleled economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to deeply constrain governmental resources across programs and services. In more recent weeks, longstanding structural inequities that impact how those programs and services are shaped and delivered have been confronted through heightened public action that compels new and systemic approaches for meaningful and lasting change. Systemic change necessary to ensure government is more accountable to the broad public it serves has been further brought into sharp focus with new developments in early June that stemmed from the Federal investigation announced in late January into allegations of public corruption by San Francisco City officials. Those developments included new criminal charges brought against then-Director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services and Fix-It program Sandra Zuniga, as discussed further in the July Enforcement Report under Agenda Item 12. On June 29, in parallel with a separate City Attorney’s investigation stemming from alleged wrongdoing by former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, the Controller’s Office released its first report of findings and recommendations on policies and processes to prevent fraud and violations of local law. As noted later in this report, the Controller’s Office has been invited to present highlights of that assessment at the Commission’s July 10 meeting as part of this Agenda Item 3.
Against this backdrop, this month’s Executive Director report is lengthy. Highlights of key Ethics Commission operational and programmatic activities over the past five months appear in two parts. Part I chronicles a variety of operational developments against which the Commission’s day to day business has continued to be carried out. Part II highlights a number of programmatic and organizational developments since the Commission’s last meeting in February.
Operational Developments | Continuity of Ethics Commission Business
With the City Health Officer’s announcement of the Shelter in Place Public Health Order in mid-March due to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, the Ethics Commission’s public-facing services and internal operations alike were required to adapt, literally overnight, to function in a fully remote environment. Since that time:
- Upon closing the Ethics Commission’s physical offices for the duration of the shelter in place order and COVID-19 public health emergency, the Commission was able to immediately initiate fully remote operations for all Commission Staff to ensure continuity of regular business for those served by the Commission’s operations and programs.
- Ethics Commission staff have directly aided in the City’s response to the pandemic. As of mid-June, 40 percent of the Ethics Commission’s current 20-member staff have fulfilled Disaster Service Worker (DSW) duty By the end of June, these individuals collectively provided 157 days of DSW service coverage, or over 1,250 hours, to the City’s public health emergency response.
- While regular monthly public meetings of the Ethics Commission were not able to be held due to Public Health Orders that have restricted the use of City facilities and resulted in the temporary suspension of in-person public meetings, the Ethics Commission has now resumed its regular meeting schedule with the launch of a fully remote meeting on July 10, aided by remote meeting technology and support now available to City Boards and Commissions through the City’s Department of Technology and SFGovTV.
The following summary chronicles various events and operational developments against which the Commission’s day to day business have been carried remotely out since the Commission’s last meeting on February 21, 2020.
|February 25||Mayor London Breed issues Proclamation by the Mayor Declaring the Existence of a Local Emergency to prepare for COVID-19|
|March 6||San Francisco Health Officer Tomas Aragon declares a public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the public health in the City and County of San Francisco|
|March 7||SF County Health Officer issues public health order restricting non-essential group gatherings at City owned facilities.|
|March 18||ETH adapts website to dedicate new home page section for specific COVID-19 operational and program updates, “Important Information During COVID-19 Emergency”|
|March 19||ETH launches online filing tool for submitting paper campaign finance and consultant filings during Ethics Commission’s office closure, providing a new Electronic Cover Sheet for transmitting the filings online.|
|March 20||Ethics Commission issues updated Form 700 filing information regarding April 1 Form 700 filing deadline, including reminders about online resources available to all filers.|
|April 1||ETH posts meeting cancellation notice for the Commission’s April 17, 2020 meeting and posts updated office closure notice|
|April 10||ETH staff attend live online training with the City’s Department of Technology to enable remote public meetings|
|April 29||ETH posts updated notice of physical office closure and issues notice of cancellation of May 8 regular meeting.|
|May 7||Bay Area Public Health Officers issue joint statement regarding continuation of local health orders and citing local jurisdictions continue to work on responsible reopening plans that maintain progress in the fight against coronavirus|
|May 15||ETH certifies eligibility of first candidate in Supervisorial District 7 to receive public funds for November 2020 election|
|May 29||ETH certifies eligibility of first candidates in Supervisorial Districts 1 and 11 to receive public funds for November 2020 election|
|June 1||ETH posts updated notice of physical office closure and issues notice of cancellation for June 12 regular meeting.|
|June 8||ETH staff hold first candidate and treasurer training using remote meeting technology|
|June 12||ETH submits revised FY21 and FY22 budget as required to Mayor’s Budget Office detailing impact of 10% and 15% targeted cuts|
|June 18||ETH certifies eligibility of first candidate in Supervisorial District 3 to receive public funds for November 2020 election|
|June 23||ETH certifies eligibility of first candidate in Supervisorial District 5 to receive public funds for November 2020 election|
|July 2||ETH posts Agenda of July 10 Ethics Commission meeting as Commission resumes its regular monthly meetings via remote platform|
Organizational and Programmatic Developments
New Board of Supervisors Appointment to Ethics Commission
In late February, Commissioner Lateef Gray resigned from the Ethics Commission to assume a staff position with the Office of the San Francisco District Attorney. He was appointed to the Commission in June 2019 by the Board of Supervisors. We extend our appreciation to Commissioner Gray for his service and for helping to advance the work of the Commission in the public’s interest.
On June 16, the Board of Supervisors unanimously confirmed its appointment of Larry Bush to fill the vacancy created by Commissioner Gray’s resignation. Commissioner Bush was sworn into office by former Mayor Art Agnos on June 25. As you know, Commissioner Bush is a co-founder of Friends of Ethics and has been a longstanding advocate for governmental ethics reforms in San Francisco. He will serve for a term ending February 1, 2023, and at that time will be eligible for appointment to a full six-year term ending February 1, 2029. We extend a warm welcome to our newest Commission member.
Board of Supervisors Audit of Ethics Commission’s Performance Nearing Completion
As reported earlier this year, on January 28 the Board of Supervisors adopted the Motion by Board President Yee to require its Budget and Legislative Analyst (BLA) to conduct a performance audit of the Ethics Commission as a priority in FY19-20. BLA staff held an entrance meeting with Commission staff on February 5 to discuss the scope and timeline for the audit, which was initially scheduled, pre-COVID-19, to be completed in late spring. Over the past five months, auditors’ data gathering and information requests have continued and Commission staff endeavored to prioritize those requests as much as possible to help support the timely completion of the audit. Based on information BLA staff provided in mid-April, we understand that their report will likely focus on the Commission’s compliance, audit, and enforcement programs.
At this time we anticipate receiving a draft report the week of July 6 for feedback in advance of an exit conference with BLA staff. To enable the BLA to provide its final report with a formal departmental response to its recommendations to the Board of Supervisors by the end of July, we anticipate the exit conference to be held prior to July 23. Following its receipt of the BLA report, the Board will likely hold public hearings on the report and recommendations.
Controller’s Preliminary Assessment on San Francisco Public Works Contracting
As noted above and also in this month’s Policy Report and Enforcement Report (see Agenda Items 11 and 12, respectively), in the wake of the initial news regarding the arrest of Mohammed Nuru in January of this year the City Attorney’s Office and Controller’s Office undertook and investigation and review of the Public Works Department, including to identify any potential violation of conflicts of interest and governmental ethics laws and to evaluate potential vulnerabilities in the City’s contracting and procurement processes. On Monday June 29, the Controller’s Office released its first policy and process assessment to prevent fraud and violations of local law, Preliminary Assessment: San Francisco Public Works Contracting. Included among the findings and recommendations were the following items that call on the Ethics Commission to:
- examine and close loopholes in the San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code to ensure that city law does not create avenues for unethical behavior in acceptance of gifts;
- expeditiously enable and require that all Statements of Economic Interests (Form 700s) are filed electronically by all required filers; and
- conduct annual compliance reviews of these [Form 700] filings.
The report further concluded that “[t]he Mayor and Board should prioritize funding and other support necessary to accomplish this goal.”
The Controller’s Office report was presented and discussed at the Board of Supervisor’s Government Audits and Oversight Committee on Thursday, July 2 and additional hearings on further findings and recommendations are expected as that office issues further planned reports. The Commission looks forward to the opportunity to participate in the Board’s hearings to answer any questions its Members may have for the Commission and to provide comment on any approaches the Board may consider that relate to the laws within the Commission’s jurisdiction or to any Commission mandates or program operations. In addition, the Controller’s Office will be present as part of this Agenda Item on July 10 to provide the Commission with an overview of the report findings and recommendations.
As detailed at the Commission’s February meeting, the Ethics Commission submitted its original FY21 departmental budget request on February 21, 2020. Since that time, owing to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the City’s ongoing response to the public health emergency, City departments were required to submit revised FY21 budget proposals to the Mayor’s Budget Office on June 12, 2020 reflecting targeted cuts of 10% in FY21 and growing to 15% in FY22. The Commission’s revised budget submission has been placed on the July 10 Meeting Agenda as Item 4 to enable Staff to present the item for public discussion and consideration and possible action by the Commission.
Annual Statement of Economic Interests (Form 700) Filings
Following the COVID-19 shelter in place public health orders issued this spring and ongoing emergency responses of State and local government, the state Fair Political Practices Commission extended the April 1 Annual Statement of Economic Interests (Form 700) filing deadline to June 1.
Of nearly 500 electronic filers who are required to submit their Annual Form 700 filing electronically with the Ethics Commission, roughly 93 percent filed on time by the June 1 deadline. Another three percent of these electronic filers submitted late filings by July 1, while another four percent have not yet filed. By way of comparison, the percentage of on-time filers this year was virtually the same as the total percent of on-time filers in 2019, when 93.5 percent filed on time by the April 1 filing deadline.
While the emergence of COVID-19 led to the cancellation of planned in-person information sessions this filing season, the Engagement & Compliance team kept in close communication with filers and departmental filing officers under extraordinary circumstances surrounding this year’s annual filing. Commission staff provided updates to City filers about the extension of the filing deadline and provided ongoing support to departmental filers and Filing Officers including for those whose paper-based filings stood to be particularly impacted with the closure of physical offices in City government.
In all, Staff distributed 18 notices following announcement of the shelter in place order in mid-March and the June 1 deadline to keep everyone apprised of the latest filing-related developments. Communications from the Commission’s offices also acknowledged the unprecedented circumstances posed by the public health emergency and informed filers that those circumstances would be taken into consideration should that be a factor in a filer’s inability to file timely.
Since the June 1 deadline, Staff have also been in communication with filers whose statements were not filed timely. First notices were sent on June 2 with reminders of the June 1 deadline and additional reminders were provided on June 5 for filers who had not yet completed their annual Sunshine and Ethics Certification of having completed those training requirements. Staff also communicated mid-month with those who had not yet filed in mid-month to notify them of the disqualification provisions of City law for non-filers. Additional communications were provided to individual departments with copies of those disqualification notices.
Public Financing for November 2020 Election
Of the 26 of Supervisorial candidates qualified by the Department of Elections in June to appear on the November ballot, 22 (87 percent) have filed statements indicating their decision to participate in the City’s public financing program.
Staff determined eligibility of the first candidate to qualify for public funding for November 2020 election on May 15, 2020. As of July 1, seven of 22 (32 percent) of the Supervisorial candidates for the 2020 November election have qualified as eligible to receive public funds for their campaigns. As of July 1, these candidates have together qualified to receive public campaign funding totaling roughly $808,000.
We anticipate the completion of audit assessments conducted by external auditors of the 14 publicly financed committees from the 2018 election cycle will be completed in the coming month. In addition, for eight of the 11 discretionary audits selected in the spring of 2019 for campaign audits stemming from the 2018 election, audit work has been completed by Commission auditors and draft audit reports detailing auditors’ findings have been transmitted to committees for their review and comment. A ninth discretionary audit has been completed with issuance of a final audit report. Two more discretionary audits remain pending while the Auditor assigned to those audits has been serving an extended Disaster Service Work assignment since mid-April. Initiation of the two mandatory campaign audits for publicly financed candidates who ran in the 2019 election remain pending until the 2018 campaign audits have been completed.
Disaster Service Worker Assignments
As one responsibility of public service as employees with the City and County of San Francisco, Disaster Service Worker (“DSW”) assignments help ensure the City has the capacity it needs to address the impacts of a local emergency. As with other departments, Staff from the Ethics Commission have been asked to temporarily step into a DSW role to perform a range of functions. The duty for City employees to serve when departments are called is not optional and is subject only to certain health or other limited factors. All DSW needs are identified through the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and requests are channeled and coordinated through the Department of Human Resources.
As DSW duty assignments have been initiated, priority projects underway have been reassigned when possible to other staff or paused until the assigned individuals have returned to their regular Ethics Commission duties.
I want to acknowledge and thank the following Ethics Commission staff members who have provided DSW duty service in support of the City’s emergency response needs to date:
- Principal Program Manager for Engagement & Compliance Rachel Gage. Rachel was tapped to fulfill our first DSW assignment and served in late March at the Moscone Center assisting the City Administrator’s Chief Logistics Officer.
- Director of Enforcement Jeff Pierce. In mid-April, Jeff began a four-week deployment as a Site Monitor at a hotel site downtown as part of the City’s effort to provide housing support for individuals experiencing homelessness and safeguard vulnerable populations from the spread of COVID-19.
- Auditor Manisha Lal. Manisha started service at Moscone Center in mid-April through mid-May to provide support data analysis and advanced planning needs to coordinate transportation of vulnerable individuals and tracking for congregate and hotel sites. In late May she was re-deployed as a Medical Branch Support Analyst with that service just extended through the end of July.
- Senior Investigator Eric Willet. Eric was deployed for two weeks at Moscone Emergency Operations Center in April. He supported the EOC-Health and Human Services Branch in monitoring and tracking logistics and resource requests and maintaining inventory.
- Information Systems Business Analyst Jarrod Flores. Jarrod was assigned to Zuckerberg Hospital at the EOC-Human Service Branch in mid-April for just over two weeks as an Inventory Control Analyst, where he helped inventory needed items and resources and analyzed customer data.
- Senior Program Administrator John Kim. John served for over three weeks in June at the EOC as a Feeding Unit Hotline Aid to provide data entry and support for grocery and meal deliveries.
- Senior Investigator Thomas McClain. Tommy has been serving at the EOC as Deputy Feeding Unit Leader to help manage emergency response food bank activities. His assignment began on June 1 and has been extended through July 24.
- Senior Policy and Legislative Affairs Counsel Pat Ford. In early June, Pat was assigned for a three-week deployment ending June 26 with the EOC as Feeding Unit Account Manager, where he monitored and coordinated information among multi-agency stakeholders.
As reflected in the Commission’s revised FY21-FY22 budget submission, in the face of a significantly changed economic climate caused by the emergence of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Commission’s key programs and operations going forward will be required to significantly adapt under substantial budget constraints until such time that required funding can be fully restored. The beginning of a new fiscal year (FY21) is the optimal time to assess the Commission’s ongoing functional and programmatic needs and establish necessary changes to adapt operations to the new budgetary landscape. As a part of that effort I am happy to share a few staffing related changes that were made recently.
Engagement & Compliance Manager, Rachel Gage
In its original budget submission on February 2021, the Commission had requested a new 0922 Manager-I position to assume day to day responsibility for directing a broad range of management duties that are essential for ensuring appropriate required focus and attention on critical budget, financial, and human resource operations. The required target cuts in the revised budget instructions do not permit the Commission to secure this position, instead these duties will continue to be assumed by the Commission’s Executive Director and Deputy Director/Chief Programs Officer, which among various broad operational impact, will continue to affect the Deputy Director’s capacity to fully perform the Chief Programs Officer role to provide the required level of guidance and oversight to the Engagement & Compliance Division.
In order to meet this critical ongoing need, Rachel Gage, 1824 Principal Program Manager in the Engagement & Compliance Division, will assume the role of 1824 Engagement & Compliance Manager to lead this division effective July 13, 2020. In her new role, Rachel will supervise the 1823 Senior Program Administrator, two 1844 Engagement & Compliance Officers, and the 1406 Senior Clerk in the division. Rachel joined the Ethics Commission as Principal Program Manager in March 2019 and in her short span with the Commission has made significant impact on rolling out several new programmatic requirements, including Anti-Corruption and Accountability Ordinance and voter-approved legislation Proposition F. She has also provided critical outreach, training, and compliance support to candidates, committees, City departments, and other filers for various program areas including campaign finance and conflict of interests. She has significant experience in the City and prior to her City service managing multiple complex projects. We welcome Rachel to her new role and look forward to her expanded leadership in supporting the Engagement and Compliance operations.
Deputy Director & Chief Operating Officer, Gayathri Thaikkendiyil
With the shift in duties for the day-to-day supervision and management of the Engagement & Compliance Division to the Engagement & Compliance Manager, Gayathri Thaikkendiyil will now assume the role of Chief Operating Officer in addition to her continuing Deputy Director responsibilities to provide greater required focus on the day to day operations of the Commission including budget submissions, financial oversight, and human resource needs, in addition to providing broader programmatic support across all divisions. As Gayathri anticipates an extended maternity leave planned to begin in mid-July 2020 for a period of roughly six months, this change will in practice be in effect when she returns from her leave.
While Gayathri is away, Jeff Pierce, Director of Enforcement & Legal Affairs, will assume acting Deputy Director role and also take on human resource related functions, and Steven Massey, Director of Technology, will assume the role of acting Chief Operating Officer and take on the financial and budget related responsibilities.
Senior IS Business Analyst, Tyler Field
On July 1, 2020, Tyler Field was appointed as Senior Information Systems Business Analyst (a “permanent exempt” or “PEX” 1053) position in the Electronic Disclosure and Data Analysis (EDDA) division to better engage and equip the public to be active participants in and more informed about local elections. Given that the 1053 position was essential for ongoing Commission operations, we were able secure the necessary approval of both DHR and the Mayor’s Budget Office to fill the position for FY21 on a limited term basis. Tyler will be immediately focused on building and maintaining the Campaign Finance Dashboards for the November election. In addition, he will be rolling out the new Campaign Finance Application Programming Interface (API) to the public and connecting it to the City’s open data system to empower others to do more timely and informative campaign finance research. He will also be working to enable filers to complete all of their disclosures obligations via new electronic filing processes, supporting existing electronic filing applications and data systems, and automating manual business operations that now require new digital processes during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Tyler first joined the Commission in January 2018 as an Information Systems Business Analyst for a limited term project that was primarily focused on working on a project with Netfile to design and produce the Campaign Finance API. His previous experience includes roles as an Informatics Engineer and in designing and building in both brick-and-mortar and digital environments. He holds a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.
Continuing Ethics Commission Position Vacancies
Given the City’s hiring freeze for all but positions deemed essential under the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, three vacancies remain unfilled as of July 1.
Table 1 – Position Vacancies as of July 1, 2020
|Position Working Title||Work Group||February 2020 Status||Type||Job Class Title/No|
|Investigative Analyst||Enforcement Division||Eligibility List determination underway.||Vacancy/non-exempt||Administrative Analyst (1822)|
|Policy Analyst||Policy Division||Position posting under review.||Vacancy/non-exempt||Administrative Analyst (1822)|
|Principal Program Manager for Audits||Audit Division||Review of position posting pending.||Vacancy/non-exempt||Principal Administrative Analyst (1824)|
The table below shows the revenues received by the Commission during the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2019, as of June 30, 2020.
Table 2 – Summary of FY19-20 Revenues
|Source||FY 19-20 Budgeted Amount||FY 19-20 Receipts as of June 30, 2020|
|Lobbyist Registration Fees||$85,000||$107,850|
|Campaign Consultants Fees||$7,000||$20,125|
|Contact Lobbyist and Other e.g., copies made by public||$2,450||$23|
|Statement of Economic Interests Filings-Late Fees||$1,250||$1,170|
|Campaign Consultant Fines||$2,000||$5,600|
|Campaign Finance Fines (includes late fees and forfeitures)||$50,000||$76,372|
|Ethics, Other/ Administrative Fines Levied by the Commission||$7,500||$25,782|
|Major Developer Fee||$0||$1,500|
During these past five months since the Commission last had the opportunity to meet, the Commission’s day to day operations have continued to be guided by a sharp focus on advancing the Commission’s core mission and on the goal of providing excellence in our service to the public. All of us on Staff appreciate and thank each member of the Commission for their steady support and ongoing focused engagement during what has been a period of particular uncertainty. We also acknowledge and greatly appreciate the ongoing flexibility, patience, and goodwill shared by our colleagues across the City and by members of the public whom we have continued to serve.
As always, I look forward to answering any questions or providing further information at the upcoming Commission meeting.