Ethics Commission
City and County of San Francisco

Revised Draft Minutes – August 14, 2020

Revised Draft Minutes
August 14, 2020
Draft Minutes of the Regular Meeting of
The San Francisco Ethics Commission
Friday, August 14, 2020
Remote Meeting Held Online via Webex and aired live on SFGovTV
(Approved __, 2020)

Note: SFGovTV provides a continuous archive of audio, video, and Caption Notes recordings of Ethics Commission meetings that allows viewers to watch those meetings online in full at the viewer’s convenience. These archives of Ethics Commission meetings may be accessed at SFGovTV at http://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=142.

Chair Noreen Ambrose convened the meeting and stated that the meeting is being held by Teleconference Pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order N-29-20 and the Twelfth Supplement to Mayoral Proclamation Declaring the Existence of a Local Emergency Dated February 25, 2020.

Item 1. Call to order and roll call.

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 00:05:17 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Chair Noreen Ambrose called the meeting to order at 9:30 am.

COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT: With Chair Ambrose, Vice Chair Yvonne Lee, and Commissioners Daina Chiu, Fern Smith, and Larry Bush attending, a quorum was present.

STAFF PRESENTING: LeeAnn Pelham, Executive Director; Steven Massey, Director of Technology Services; Patrick Ford, Senior Policy and Legislative Affairs Counsel; Jeffrey Pierce, Director of Enforcement and Legal Affairs; Ronald Contreraz, Online Meeting Moderator.

REPRESENTATIVES OF THE OFFICE OF THE CITY ATTORNEY PRESENT: Andrew Shen, Deputy City Attorney.

MATERIALS DISTRIBUTED:

Item 2. Public comment on matters appearing or not appearing on the agenda.

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 00:07:20 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

No public comment was received.

CONSENT CALENDAR ITEMS

Chair Ambrose called the consent calendar items.

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 00:10:31 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Item 3. Draft Minutes for the Ethics Commission’s July 10, 2020 regular meeting.

Item 4. Proposed Stipulation, Decision, and Order In the Matter of Hillary Ronen for Supervisor 2016, Hillary Ronen, and Stacy Owens (SFEC Complaint No. 1617-086).

No public comment was received.

Commissioner Lee moved and Commissioner Smith seconded a motion to approve the Consent Calendar, Items 3 through 4.

Motion 200814-01 (Lee/Smith): Moved, seconded and passed unanimously (5-0) a motion to approve the Consent Calendar, Items 3 through 4.                                          

NON-CONSENT CALENDAR ITEMS

Item 5. Discussion and possible action on Ethics Commission Draft Annual Report for 2019-20

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 00:16:59 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Chair Ambrose said that she drafted the annual report to allow staff to focus on budget and the BLA audit. It is meant to showcase work done over the past year and future goals.

Director Pelham thanked Chair Ambrose for her efforts on the report and sought feedback on the report.

Commissioner Bush said additional metrics would help, including matters referred to other departments and volume of advice rendered, and that the BLA audit and comments from other departments be appended to the report.

Commissioner Chiu echoed the importance of metrics, especially Form 700 metrics. She asked if recommendations in the BLA audit should be addressed in the report and if staff vacancies should be mentioned.

Commissioner Lee suggested that the report include a chart to visually show the Commission’s work, explain how staff bandwidth affected department outcomes, and identify future work priorities.

Chair Ambrose said that the policy planning process is more appropriate to identify future priorities.

Commissioner Chiu moved and Commissioner Smith seconded a motion to request that Commissioner Ambrose take the Commissioners’ feedback and revise the draft annual report for further consideration at the Commission’s September meeting.

Public Comment

Dr. Derek Kerr stated that the BLA Audit recommended annual reporting on Whistleblower outcomes, and noted that although the Commission’s report notes cases it does not report outcomes of Whistleblower cases.

Motion 200814-02 (Chiu/Smith): Moved, seconded and passed unanimously (5-0) a motion that Commissioner Ambrose take the Commissioners’ feedback and revise the draft annual report for further consideration at the Commission’s September meeting.

Item 6. Discussion of Budget and Legislative Analyst (BLA) Performance Audit Report of the Ethics Commission conducted at the request of the Board of Supervisors.

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 00:49:25 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Commissioner Smith left the meeting at 10:55 a.m. and rejoined the meeting at 11:10 a.m.

Director Pelham summarized the recommendations contained in the BLA Performance Audit of the Ethics Commission and highlighted the Commission’s response to those recommendations.

Director of Enforcement Pierce summarized the recommendations that pertain to enforcement.

Commissioner Chiu asked how the Commission’s budget will affect its ability to meet the recommendations in the BLA audit report and whether the Board of Supervisors will consider this when acting on the City’s budget. She highlighted the importance of the Ethics Commission during the ongoing revelations of corruption and the need to commit funding.

Director Pelham said that the budget will have a large impact on the work envisioned in the report, and that if sufficient resources are not available to the Commission then it may not be possible to meet the deadlines in the report. She said that alternative funding sources will be pursued.

Commissioner Bush said that the report does not fully address funding, complaints being referred to other departments, training, or cost sharing between departments. He highlighted the importance of maintaining strong ethics laws and programs, even during times of financial hardship for the City.

Commissioner Lee suggested that staff trainings through private entities be examined as alternatives to City trainings and that the diversity of the Bay Area’s work force is an important aspect of whistleblower protection.

Chair Ambrose noted that the report will be heard at the Board of Supervisors and that appears unlikely that the Commission will receive much more funding through the budget process. She also highlighted the importance of whistleblower protection in the context of the ongoing corruption investigations and asked for forward agenda planning based on the report’s recommendations.

Commissioner Smith echoed the comments of Commissioners Bush and Chiu.

No Public Comment was received.

No action was taken.

The Commission took a recess at 11:21 a.m. and returned at 11:30 a.m.

Item 7. Discussion of Ethics Commission annual budget as proposed by the Mayor’s Office for FY20-21 and 21-22.

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 02:00:12 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Director of Technology Services Massey summarized staff’s report on the Mayor’s proposed budget for the Commission and explained how the proposal would impact the Commission’s operations, including staffing shortages in the separate Commission divisions. Massey said that the implementation of universal electronic Form 700 filing would be delayed under the proposal.

Commissioner Chiu asked for details on the hiring freeze, and Massey explained that the Commission is limited in which positions it can make job offers and when those job offers can begin. Commissioner Chiu underscored the need for funding during the current corruption revelations.

Commissioner Bush asked for staff to explore whether contracting with the FPPC for audits would allow auditing resource to be obtained faster and stated that the delay in the Form 700 project is unacceptable and is the result of departments not contributing to paying its cost.

Commissioner Ambrose said that staff may need to propose that the costs of certain Ethics programs be covered by other departments that benefit from them. She also asked how procedurally the Board of Supervisors might consider adding to the Commission’s budget. Director Pelham said that staff will meet with the Mayor’s budget office again and could request a second hearing before the Budget and Appropriations Committee of the Board of Supervisors.

Public Comment

Dr. Derek Kerr stated that the Ethics Commission does not have independent funding and that the Commission is thus dependent on the people it regulates to fund it. Solutions might include a required percent of the total City Budget to go to the Commission.

Item 8. Discussion of monthly Staff Policy Report.

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 02:54:14 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Senior Policy and Legislative Affairs Counsel Ford discussed the contents of the Staff Policy Report.

Commissioner Chiu commented that after it voted not to place the Public Advocate measure on the ballot, the Board of Supervisors will hopefully choose to support the Commission’s funding.

Commissioner Bush suggested topics for a future policy project and recommended that staff engage with national stakeholder organizations.

No public comment was received.

No action was taken as this item was provided for informational purposes only.

Item 9.  Discussion of monthly Staff Enforcement Report.

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 03:10:50 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Enforcement Director Jeff Pierce described the contents of the Staff Enforcement Report.

Commissioner Chiu noted that collection efforts regarding ethics penalties be adequately maintained by the Bureau of Delinquent Revenues.

Commissioner Bush asked that more details be provided in the report regarding referral of complaints to other departments.

No public comment was received.

No action was taken as it was provided for informational purposes only.

Item 10. Discussion of Executive Director’s Report.

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 03:25:08 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Executive Director Pelham discussed the contents of the Executive Director’s report.

Commissioner Chiu inquired about the legal implications of a commissioner who has failed to file a Form 700 voting in violation of City law.

Deputy City Attorney Shen said he has communicated with other deputy City Attorneys who advise commissions to apprise them of the rule. He said that there could be removal or other discipline of violators but that it is not clear that a violator’s vote would not count.

Commissioner Bush inquired about the difference between penalties for late filing and failure to file the Form 700. Enforcement Director Pierce said that late fees and enforcement actions are separate processes and that enforcement proceedings are not subject to the same limits as late fees.

Chair Ambrose sought clarification about the enforcement roles of the Fair Political Practices Commission and the Ethics Commission, and Pierce stated that the FPPC retains jurisdiction but typically defers to local agencies.

No public comment was received.

No action was taken as the item was for informational purposes only.

Item 11. Discussion and possible action on items for future meetings.

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 03:38:04 minute mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Commissioner Bush suggested that the Commission establish working groups or two or fewer commissioners to work on specific projects outside of Commission meetings.

Deputy City Attorney Shen explained the meeting laws that govern commission committees.

Chair Ambrose highlighted that these meeting rules would impose additional administrative work on staff to notice and administer committee meetings. She added that the September meeting would be a better time to assess what Commission work is needed on projects. Ambrose asked Deputy City Attorney Shen and Executive Director Pelham to report on what rues apply to departments soliciting and receiving outside funding.

Commissioner Bush asked that lobbying laws be examined.

No public comment was received.

No action was taken.

Item 12. Additional opportunity for public comment on matters appearing or not appearing on the agenda pursuant to Ethics Commission Bylaws Article VII Section 2.

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 03:52:04 minute mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

No public comment was received.

No action was taken.

Item 13. Adjournment.

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 03:54:00 minute mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Motion 200814-04 (Chiu/Bush): Moved, seconded and passed unanimously (5-0) to adjourn the meeting.

The Commission adjourned at 1:25 p.m.

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