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Executive Director’s Report – March 8, 2021

Date: March 8, 2021
To: Members of the Ethics Commission
From: LeeAnn Pelham, Executive Director
Subject: Agenda Item 6 – Executive Director’s Report for March 2021


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

Action Requested    

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

Outreach and Engagement Activities

Statement of Incompatible Activities Annual Reminder

Departmental Statements of Incompatible Activities, or “SIAs,” are essential tools that support all City officers and employees in understanding the kinds of activities that the City has deemed incompatible with their public duties. Statements identify the kinds of outside activities, including self-employment, that are incompatible with the mission of their department and are therefore restricted. These activities can include those that conflict with official duties, have excessive time demands, or are subject to the review of the department, and SIA prohibitions can apply to these activities whether they are compensated or uncompensated. To ensure all officials and employees know where to access their department’s Statement of Incompatible Activities and are able to familiarize themselves with its provisions, City law requires SIAs to be distributed to all employees each year by April 1. On March 4, we provided the annual reminder notice shown in Attachment 1 to all City departments to facilitate distribution of departmental SIAs to their officers and employees.

Annual Form 700 Filing Season: Statement of Economic Interests Due April 1

Annual financial disclosure statements required to be filed by City officials and designated employees are due Thursday, April 1, 2021. Annual Ethics and Sunshine Ordinance Training Declaration Forms required to be filed by City officials are also due April 1. Over 500 elected Officials, Commissioners, Board Members, and Department Heads are required to file the Form 700 electronically with the Ethics Commission. Approximately 3,000 other City and County employees designated on departmental Conflict of Interest codes also are required to file a Form 700. The state Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has confirmed that the regular April 1 annual filing deadline will not be postponed as it was in 2020 due to the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic. In addition, the FPPC has confirmed that designated filers’ Statements are required to contain a wet signature and be postmarked no later than April 1 to be considered timely filed.

To help inform filers and filing officers about the annual Form 700 and applicable ethics and sunshine training requirements, in January our office launched updated compliance pages online, and disseminated annual filing notices to filers and departmental filing officers. To help heighten awareness of these requirements and support timely compliance, staff also conducted an information session for filing officers on February 10 and a session for City officials who e-file with the Ethics Commission on February 17. Nearly 50 filing officers attended the February 10 session, while the February 17 session was attended by 15 individuals.

Additional filing information sessions are scheduled this month. A March 10 session is designed for filing officers and another session for designated employees will take place on March 17. Each session covers information and tools available to promote understanding and compliance with annual filing requirements. The session for City officials also covers behested payments reporting, recusal disclosure procedures, and disqualification rules. All information sessions are conducted online and will be memorialized on the Commission’s website.

During this filing period our office sees an increase in filer support needs and requests for guidance leading up to the April 1 deadline. The Engagement and Compliance team continues to provide one-on-one assistance to filers and filing officers through emails and calls. As of last week, more than 80 officials have already e-filed their Form 700 statement and roughly 60 have fulfilled their annual Ethics/Sunshine training requirement. All e-filed annual Form 700 statements and training declarations are publicly available through the Ethics Commission’s SEI Disclosures web page.

After the annual filing deadline, Commissioners and Board Members that appear to have unfulfilled annual filing requirements will be individually notified by email about their pending filing obligations and resulting disqualification. Our SEI Disclosures webpage also lists e-filers who have not filed their required statements by the filing deadline.

Departments are required to notify the Ethics Commission of the designated employees who did not file a Form 700 statement by the April 1 filing deadline. Departments furnish this information via the Filing Officer Report which this year is due by April 12. The list of designated employees who did not file by the statutory deadline also will be available on the Commission’s SEI Datasets webpage.

Other Outreach Sessions

On February 26 I met with the City’s Digital Services team to provide an introductory briefing on the City’s framework of ethics laws and how those laws serve to uphold public service and build public trust.

Deputy City Attorney Andrew Shen and I are conducting an online information session for members of the Municipal Executives Association (MEA) on March 10. As part of an agreement reached in contract negotiations in 2019 between the City and the bargaining unit for City managers, a new provision in the MEA Memorandum of Understanding was established to provide an in-person ethics information session for MEA members at least once a year. The sessions are designed to support MEA members in refreshing their awareness of key provisions of the law and highlighting various resources and tools available to promote their compliance with ethics provisions that apply to them.

Lobbying Program Update

The City’s Lobbyist Ordinance requires persons defined as lobbyists under the law to register and file public reports disclosing their lobbying activities. Contact Lobbyists must register with the Ethics Commission and pay an annual registration fee of $500 within five business days of qualifying as a lobbyist. Lobbyists must e-file public disclosure reports to register that provide information about their employers, clients, City agencies that they have lobbied or may lobby, and the lobbying period for each client and City agency. By the fifteenth day of every month, lobbyists are also required to disclose on monthly electronic reports their lobbying activity during the prior calendar month. After initial registration, lobbyists must pay $500 re-registration fee annually by February 1 to remain active. As of March 4, 177 contact lobbyists were registered with the Commission, while two expenditure lobbyists were registered.

Over the last several months, the Engagement and Compliance staff members have been assisting lobbyists and their representatives to timely complete the annual registration requirements and file monthly disclosure reports. Staff provided compliance support by addressing lobbyists’ questions regarding filing requirements, managing filer accounts in the e-filing system, sending out reminder notices to filers with pending requirements, providing technical assistance to filers to submit their reports, tracking registration fee payments, and terminating inactive lobbyists.

Budget Update: Board of Supervisors Committee Prepares for FY22 Budget Hearings

Following the Commission’s last monthly meeting, on February 22 our office submitted its FY22 Ethics Commission Budget request to the Mayor’s Office, which called for a 28% increase in the Commission’s operating budget to strengthen enforcement and institute practical ethics training for city employees and contractors. The same day, we released the budget proposal and the Commission’s public statement on the budget, which cautioned that a 7.5% cut in the department’s would ignore the urgent need for “investing in public integrity and making government effective for and accountable to the people of San Francisco.”

Last week all departments were asked by the Budget & Appropriations Committee Chair Matt Haney to be prepared at the Board’s budget hearings in June to present a budget proposal that “answers three core principles and translate [sic] them into action: 1) How are you eliminating corruption and waste? 2) How are you working urgently to rebuilt a better city post-COVID? 3) How are you innovating away from failed policies by focusing on impact?” On behalf of the Board, the Chair’s budget letter asks every department to plan to address several questions, including how they are “setting a ‘tone at the top’ that demonstrates ethics, transparency, and the public interest.” The letter also states, “if a city department is not clearly addressing these principles and goals, they can expect that their budget will be reduced accordingly.”

Departments were also asked to provide that office with any public presentations made on their budgets for review. We provided those materials to the Chair’s office last week and look forward to further direct follow up with that office to provide additional background on the Commission’s ongoing priorities and FY22 budget request.

Background on the Commission’s FY22 budget and future updates that may be issued related to the Commission’s budget can be accessed at the Commission’s budget webpage.

Hiring and Staffing Updates

I am sorry to announce that Auditor Amy Li’s last day on staff was March 5. Amy decided to accept a promotional opportunity in the City and will assume a new role doing budget analysis work with Zuckerberg SF General Hospital. Amy first joined the Ethics Commission as an Auditor in 2010 and has been a tremendous asset to both our audit and public financing programs during her tenure. Most recently, in 2019 she agreed to temporarily lead the Audit Division during a period of staffing transition, both as Acting Interim Audit Supervisor and as Principal Program Manager for Audits. We thank Amy for her significant contribution to the Commission’s work and are happy the City can continue to have the benefit of her knowledge, skills, and experience.

Separately, over the past month we have continued to make progress in filling the multiple position vacancies identified in our FY21 Hiring Plan. I anticipate being able to provide you with more news at the April meeting about those positions, as well as updates on progress toward filling the two vacancies created by the recent departures of Amy Li  from the Audit Division and of Tommy McClain from our Enforcement team last month.

Revenues Reports

The table below shows the revenues received by the Commission during the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2020, as of March 5, 2021.

Summary of FY20-21 Revenues
FY20-21 Budgeted Amount FY20-21 Receipts as of March 5th
Lobbyist Registration Fees $85,000 $103,500
Lobbyists Fines $2,000 $1,800
Campaign Consultants Fees $7,000 $5,350
Contact Lobbyist and Other e.g., copies made by public $2,450 $0
Statement of Economic Interests Filings-Late Fees $1,250 $950
Campaign Consultant Fines $2,000 $1,900
Campaign Finance Fines (includes late fees and forfeitures) $50,000 $21,460
Ethics, Other/ Administrative Fines Levied by the Commission $7,500 $32,318
Major Developer Fee $0 $500
Total $157,200 $167,778

I look forward to answering any questions or providing further information at the upcoming Commission meeting.

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