Ethics Commission
City and County of San Francisco

Report on Gift Laws – Gifts to Individuals

Ethics Commission Government Ethics and Conflict of Interest Review Policy Project

Issued:  August 3, 2021

Beginning in January 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a series of criminal corruption charges against multiple City officials, employees, and contractors, alleging numerous instances in which individuals seeking favorable outcomes from City government provided meals, travel, luxury goods, and other gifts in an attempt to influence the actions of City officials and employees. In the wake of those charges, in 2020 the Ethics Commission identified a Government Ethics and Conflicts of Interest Review as its top policy project.  This project is designed to ensure that the City’s ethics laws and governmental processes promote fairness and equity for all residents and maintain public trust in governmental institutions. The project is principally focused on analyzing unethical conduct revealed through the multiple ongoing corruption investigations and on identifying policy approaches to prevent similar conduct in the future.

The Report on Gift Laws – Gifts to Individuals details Staff findings and recommendations from the Commission’s second phase of the project. It recommends changes to City laws controlling the giving and receipt of gifts in order to prevent pay-to-play corruption and appearance of undue influence, both of which undermine City processes and the public’s trust in local government. The recommendations follow a process that included stakeholder engagement, including interested persons meetings held in October 2020 and April 2021. The proposals seek to identify loopholes and oversights in the local laws that impede the overall effectiveness of gift laws and, over time, can lead to an organizational culture that does not value or seek to comply with gift rules.  A second report of findings and recommendations regarding gifts that benefit City officials and employees that are made to City departments is planned.

This report will be presented at the meeting of the Ethics Commission on August 13, 2021 to receive public comment and enable the Commission to consider and take action on the report’s recommendations. For information on how to submit public comment for the August 13 meeting please visit the Commission’s Meetings page.

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