To: Members of the Ethics Commission
From: LeeAnn Pelham, Executive Director
Subject: Agenda Item 12 – Executive Director Report for August 2021
Summary and Action Requested
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.
I am sorry to share news that Commissioner Noreen Ambrose resigned from the Commission effective July 16 due to ongoing family commitments. Commissioner Ambrose was first appointed to the Commission in May of 2018 and reappointed to a full term in February 2020 by City Attorney Herrera. Commissioner Ambrose was elected to serve as Vice Chair of the Commission in 2019 and was elected Chair in 2020. On behalf of the entire Commission staff, we wish Commissioner Ambrose happy travels, thank her for her vision and focus, and convey our deep gratitude for her service and steady leadership, particularly over the past unprecedented year.
On July 29, the Mayor signed into law a $13.1 billion City budget for Fiscal Year 2022. This includes a total operating budget for the Ethics Commission in FY22 of $6.55 million that funds the full set of programmatic and staffing requests we sought in our FY22 Ethics Commission Budget request. This new funding includes resources to hire critically needed staff to 1) further develop and implement our new Ethics@Work outreach and training project to equip City officials, employees, and contractors with practical tools to navigate ethical issues and promote a citywide culture of integrity; 2) reduce enforcement case resolution times and increase the number, proportion, and severity of cases investigated by the Commission; and 3) develop and implement standardized methods to track and regularly report on the performance of the department’s core functions.
Controller’s Status Report: Implementation of Recommendations in Public Integrity Assessments
On August 4, the Controller’s Office issued a status report on implementation of recommendations made in its series of Public Integrity Reports issued to date. The status report provides an update on legal actions taken to date related to criminal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the past 14 months stemming from the Mohammed Nuru matter. It also provides update on the implementation of recommendations the reports made to improve transparency, reduce the risk of fraud, and safeguard public funds.
Legislative and Other Items of Note
Behested Payments Amendments. As also noted in the Controller’s Status Report mentioned above, Behested Payments amendments proposed by the Ethics Commission in November 2020 remain pending at the Board of Supervisors. It is possible that Chair Peskin may schedule the ordinance to be heard at the first meeting of the Rules Committee after Labor Day. As reported in the May Staff Policy Report, these amendments to the Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code would prohibit all unelected City officers and Form 700 (Statement of Economic Interest) designated filers from soliciting behested payments from those defined as interested parties.
Redistricting Task Force. On July 21, 2021, the Board of Supervisors adopted Ordinance 094-21 (BOS File No. 210606) to convene a Redistricting Task Force in advance of receiving the redistricting data from the U.S. Census Bureau due to the anticipated need to redistrict at least one of the City’s eleven supervisorial districts following the 2020 census. Under the Ordinance, the Task Force will consist of nine members, three each appointed by the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor, and the City’s Elections Commission. Because the members of the Task Force are officers of the City and County of San Francisco, they are subject to a range of ethics provisions that are designed to help uphold fair and objective governmental decision making. To help promote awareness of those provisions, in late July we posted on our website information about ethics laws that apply to Redistricting Task Force members.
Local Recall Campaign Finance Disclosure Data. Both California and City law regulate the financing of campaigns and provide robust transparency into the campaign finance activities of committees raising and spending funds to influence voters. All campaign committees in San Francisco are required to file disclosure statements in electronic format. Under local law, any committee that raises or spends funds to support or oppose a recall, initiative or referendum petition is required to file campaign disclosure statements during periods in which signatures are gathered. Information about campaign finance disclosures required during signature gathering periods can be viewed on the Commission’s website under Committee Reporting Requirements. Staff has published a dashboard highlighting contributions received by committees currently formed to support or oppose the recall campaigns. In addition, statements filed by committees formed to support or oppose a city recall can be searched using the Commission’s online disclosure portal.
Application windows for the Senior Investigator/Legal Analyst position and the Auditor position have now both closed and applications received are in the candidate review phase. As noted above, the City’s FY22 budget approved by the Board of Supervisors was signed by the Mayor on July 29 and includes the eight new staff positions we had proposed in February. We are working with the goal of posting those job announcements this month to enable hiring as soon as possible once the position authorities and funding become effective on October 1.
Racial Equity Action Plan
Deputy Director/Chief Operating Officer Gayathri Thaikkendiyil and I have updated our Departmental Racial Equity Action Plan to reflect the status and planned priorities for our departmental work in FY22. With the addition of eight new staff positions to be filled in this fiscal year and continued organizational growth and development, priority action items in our Plan continue to be those related to staff hiring, recruitment, and retention. The Plan will continue to expand and evolve as additional priorities and actions are identified.
Update on Planned Re-Opening of Commission’s Physical Office
As COVID-19 public policies and public health requirements have continued to evolve over recent months with generally increasing vaccination rates and lowered case rates, the City and County of San Francisco continues to work toward a September re-opening of its physical offices that have been closed since the emergence of COVID-19 public health directives. Based on ongoing policy direction from the Department of Human Resources, Public Health officers, and the City Administrator, departments are developing re-opening workplace policies and practices, including a written COVID-19 Prevention Plan, consistent with those requirements for implementation at their physical workplaces.
Staff is currently working on the activities and steps necessary to prepare for the scheduled re-opening of the Commission’s physical office in September. Further information will be provided and posted on the Commission’s website when available.
The table below reflects revenues received by the Commission for Fiscal Year 2022 as of August 9, 2021.
Summary of FY22 Revenues
|Description||FY22 Budgeted Amount||FY22 Actuals as 8/9/2021|
|Campaign Consultant Registration Fees||$7,000||$500|
|Lobbyist Registration Fees||$85,000||$5,500|
|Campaign Consultant Fines||$2,000||$800|
|Campaign Finance Fines||$50,000||$1,695|
|Statement of Economic Interests Filings – Late Fees||$1,250||$10|
|Other Ethics/Administrative Fees and Fines||$9,950||$5,612|
I look forward to answering any questions or providing further information at the Commission meeting.