Ethics Commission
City and County of San Francisco

Draft Minutes – July 9, 2021

Draft Minutes of the Regular Meeting of
The San Francisco Ethics Commission
Friday, July 9, 2021
Remote Meeting Held Online via WebEx and aired live on SFGovTV
(Approved __, 2021)

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.

Item 1. Call to order and roll call.

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 00:02:43 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Chair Noreen Ambrose convened the meeting at 9:43 am 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. Online Meeting Moderator Ronald Contreraz summarized procedures for remote participation by members of the public.

COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT: With Chair Ambrose and Commissioners Daina Chiu, Larry Bush, and James Bell attending, a quorum was present. Vice Chair Yvonne Lee joined the meeting at 10am.

STAFF PRESENTING: LeeAnn Pelham, Executive Director; Jeff Pierce, Director of Enforcement and Legal Affairs; eric Willet, Senior Investigator; Pat Ford, Senior Policy and Legislative Affairs Counsel; 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 00:05:32 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Ellen Lee Zhou identified herself as a public social worker, a union delegate, and a member of Revival San Francisco. She stated that the City offered $5,000 for any person who wants to live in a tent, and that the City spends $12.3 billion a year on failed policies. She identified a number of policy issues that she finds concerning and urged the Ethics Commission to intervene.

CONSENT CALENDAR ITEMS

Chair Ambrose called the consent calendar.

Items 3-4.

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 00:10:49 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Item 3. Draft Minutes of the Commission’s June 11, 2021 regular meeting.

Item 4. Proposed Streamlined Stipulation, Decision and Order In the Matter of Yes on Proposition C – Universal Childcare in San Francisco, Norman Yee, and Nancy Warren (SFEC Complaint No. 1718-128).

Public Comment

 

Ellen Lee Zhou stated that the Ethics Commission used to receive higher public participation. She stated that the Ethics Commission should conduct public outreach on universal childcare and other issues.

Motion 210709-01 (Bell/Chiu): Moved, seconded, and passed (4-0) to approve the two items called under the consent calendar.  

ITEMS REMOVED FROM CONSENT CALENDAR TO BE CONSIDERED SEPARATELY UNDER BYLAWS ART. VIII, SEC. 2

Item 5. Proposed Streamlined Stipulation, Decision and Order In the Matter of Cammy Blackstone (SFEC Complaint No. 1920-010).

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 00:17:34 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Commissioner Bush asked whether this matter included any undisclosed contacts. Senior Investigator Eric Willett explained the factual background of this matter and how Staff arrived at the recommended penalty. Enforcement Director Jeff Pierce added that the Commission could have handled this case differently if there had been different facts or aggravating circumstances but that on these facts the stipulated penalty was appropriate.

No public Comment was received.

Motion 210709-02 (Chiu/Bush): Moved, seconded, and passed (4-0) to approve the stipulation.  

Item 6. Proposed Streamlined Stipulation, Decision and Order In the Matter of Jennifer Stojkovic (SFEC Complaint No. 1920-011).

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 00:24:41 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Willett described this item as similar to that in Item 5, with one distinction being that here the lobbyist had identified one instance in which a previously unreported contact was now disclosed.

Bush asked about the remedial action that the lobbyist took in this matter. Willett stated that the majority of the amendments were to report only payments received.

Bush asked why this nonprofit is endorsing candidates on its website. Deputy City Attorney Shen emphasized that there are distinctions between 501(c)(3)’s, 501(c)(4)’s and 501(c)(6)’s.

Public Comment

A caller noted that if the Commissioner were to assess the statutory $50 a day for late-reported information this penalty would be in the range of six figures.

Charley Marsteller stated that lobbyists should have to take remedial action before the Commission considers a proposed stipulation. Willett clarified that there is no instance in which Staff would proffer a proposed stipulation before remedial action is taken.

Matthew Alvarez from the Sutton Law Firm described his understanding of the exemption for nonprofit organizations.

Chiu asked whether the $50 statutory fee is discretionary. Willett confirmed that it is.

Motion 210709-02 (Bush/Chiu): Moved, seconded, and passed (4-1, Bell dissenting) to continue the stipulation to the next meeting.  

NON-CONSENT CALENDAR ITEMS

Item 7. Discussion and possible action on Statement of Incompatible Activities (SIA) for the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH).

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 00:52:30 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Senior Policy & Legislative Affairs Counsel Pat Ford introduced the item. He described what a Statement of Incompatible Activities (SIA) is and explained that the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) came into existence within the last few years and that it had not yet adopted an SIA.

Chair Ambrose asked whether it’s the case that those who submit Forms 700 for HSH all file at Category 3. Ford identified those who file at Categories 1 and 2.

Chiu asked whether it would be helpful to tailor this SIA to what was learned from the DPW corruption scandal. Ford responded that in general the standard for considering an SIA is whether it conforms to the SIAs of other departments. He stated that the proper venue for rule changes would be in the code or in regulations, because SIAs are individual and amending one does not amend all, whereas the code and regulations apply across all departments. Chiu stated her agreement that the code is the ideal place for rule changes but stated that it might be more timely not to lose this opportunity to include helpful rules in this SIA. Ford acknowledged the validity of her view and stated that reviewing the SIAs is part of the ongoing policy project reviewing Article III.

No public comment was received.

Bush stated his view that it would be better to adopt this statement now. He raised a question about an exception in the SIA. On clarification, Ford stated that the language in the provision at issue does not include an exception for nonprofit organizations but only clarifies that no such exception exists.

Motion 210709-03 (Lee/Chiu): Moved, seconded, and passed (4-1, Bush dissenting) to approve the draft SIA.  

The Commission took a brief recess.

Item 8. Discussion and possible action on Ethics Commission Annual Report draft for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2021.

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 01:19:41 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Executive Director Pelham introduced the item.

Chiu offered her feedback and suggested editing the document to achieve certain formatting and content objectives. Chair Ambrose asked that Chiu offer those edits to staff, and Chiu agreed.

Bush stated that the annual report focuses only on the Ethics Commission and does not adequately situate the Commission’s work within the larger City structure. He further noted that the preamble to the report misstates that the Commission hopes to return the City to a prior ethical culture, stating his view that ethical culture has never characterized the City. He stated he would be unable to endorse the report as written.

No public comment was received.

Chair Ambrose stated that she was reluctant to put the report over to the next meeting.

Chiu asked if Commissioners could review the final product before publication and Chair Ambrose agreed.

Director Pelham stated that she had distributed among commissioners Bush’s comments and staff’s responses to those comments. In answer to a question from Chair Ambrose about Brown Act requirements, Shen stated that publishing that response to the Commission’s website would satisfy open government requirements.

The Commission discussed whether to delegate final approval to the Executive Director.

Motion 210709-04 (Ambrose/Lee): Moved, seconded, and passed (5-0) to finalize the annual report and to circulate it to Commissioners before publication.  

Item 9. Discussion and possible action on staff report regarding status of implementation of recommendations of the August 2020 Budget & Legislative Analyst’s Performance Report of the Ethics Commission.

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 01:46:34 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Executive Director Pelham introduced the item. She highlighted that 37 percent of the BLA’s recommendations have been completely implemented, another 37 percent are in progress, and a final 25 percent are planned for future implementation. She noted that new hires and the budget for an expanded staff will better enable the Commission to implement some of the recommendations.

Chiu asked that the Enforcement Division identify in a subsequent report how it has identified interim milestones and what progress it has made toward meeting those interim milestones.

No public comment was received.

Chiu asked whether the additionally budgeted positions meets the BLA’s staffing recommendation. Pelham stated that the BLA’s report was based on the existing departmental staffing recommendations at that time. She said that if the current mayoral budget proposal is approved, the department will have the resources to achieve the staffing levels recommended by the BLA.

Chair Ambrose requested that the BLA update chart be appended to the annual report.

Bell stated that he was not sure if the purpose of the annual report was narrative or recitation and added his support for including the BLA chart in the annual report.

Bush stated that the BLA had identified the rate of case closures as important and noted that one of the cases the Commission has referred to the City Attorney’s Office remained on investigative hold for 2.5 years. He asked whether the annual report might better reflect the role that referrals or investigative holds play in delaying case closures. Pelham stated that Staff would implement the BLA’s recommendation that Staff report quarterly on its progress in working toward accelerated case closure timelines.

Bush stated that the Charter requires all Commissions to have a secretary and asked for an update on that staffing issue.

Item 10. Discussion of Executive Director’s Report. An update of various programmatic and operational highlights of Ethics Commission staff activities since the Commission’s previous meeting. The written report is available on the Commission’s website and may cover a range of topics such as the Commission’s budget, outreach activities, campaign finance disclosure and public financing programs, audit program, lobbyist program, campaign consultant program, permit consultant program, major developer program, and future staff projects. Any of these subjects may potentially be part of the Director’s presentation or discussed by the Commission.

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 02:09:32 mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Director Pelham introduced the item and noted that Deputy Director Gayathri Thaikkendiyil had addressed the Board’s budget committee and that the Board had raised no questions about the Commission’s budget and had approved it as written. She provided an update noting that the Commission’s lobbying disclosures have been updated online, highlighted ongoing hiring efforts, and noted that the Mayor had scheduled an in-person department head meeting.

Bush requested that the Commission survey staff regarding whether anyone is receiving a foreign language bonus and what staff’s foreign language capacity might be.

Chiu asked about the behested payment legislation before the Board of Supervisor and whether it was not likely to hear the item before the July recess. Ford stated that he had heard from Sup. Haney’s office this morning that his office has requested that Sup. Peskin hear the item at the July 19th meeting of the Rules Committee.

Chiu stated she hoped the City would permit flexibility across departments for reopening. She further encouraged Staff to carry forward what they had learned from the pandemic.

No public comment was received.

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

(Note: This item appears beginning at the 02:27:43 minute mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

Vice Chair Lee requested that the August meeting include a midyear presentation by the Director on the Racial Equity Action Plan. Chair Ambrose stated she believed the Director would be doing so in October. Director Pelham confirmed. Vice Chair Lee clarified that she hoped that Staff will sooner than later address how the Commission can reach lesser represented communities.

Bush requested that Staff report at a future meeting how Staff has engaged the public.

No public comment was received.

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 02:34:39 minute mark in the video recording at SFGovTv.)

No public comment was received.

 

Item 13. Adjournment.

The Commission adjourned at 12:14 p.m.

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