Ethics Commission Fines Respondents for Violating Campaign Finance, Ethics, and Lobbying Laws and Takes Action to Strengthen City Gift Laws

October 8, 2021

For information:  Patrick Ford (415) 252-3100. 

The Ethics Commission levied more than $4,000 in fines in four separate matters resolved through its new Streamlined Administrative Resolution Program. Established in February, the Commission’s Streamlined Administrative Resolution Program provides accountability for violations of City laws while reducing the amount of time and resources required for a more formal case resolution. The program does this by allowing identified types of cases to be resolved by a more standardized method for resolving matters by streamlined stipulated settlement within a framework of established fine formulas for violations of certain provisions of the City law. By allowing eligible matters to be resolved through streamlined procedures, the program enables the Enforcement Division to reserve a larger share of its  investigative resources for matters of greater severity, complexity, or breadth. 

At its monthly public meeting Friday, the San Francisco Ethics Commission approved the following four settlement agreements in which respondents admitted to violations of the City’s Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code and agreed to pay a monetary penalty. 

The Commission fined Sandra Lee Fewer, along with her committee and treasurer, $750 for two violations of the SF C&GCC section 1.126(d) prohibition on a candidate or their controlled committee from accepting contributions from City contractors within 12 months from the date their contract was approved. The Commission fined Brigitte Davila, a Member of the Board of Trustees for the San Francisco Community College District, $2,000 for her failure to timely file multiple Statements of Economic Interests Forms in violation of SF C&GCC section 3.1-102(a). The Commission fined Jennifer Stojkovic, the Executive Director at sf.citi, $931 for her failure to report one lobbying contact and the compensation that she received from her employer for lobbying activity in violation of SF C&GCC section 2.110(c). Finally, the Commission fined the committee, No Plan, No Accountability, No on Prop C, Sponsored by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and Andrew Sinn, the committee’s treasurer, $500 for a failure to include required disclaimer language on a political advertisement in violation of SF C&GCC section 1.161(a).  

As with other stipulations acted on by the commission, Respondents and the Commission may agree to settle and resolve all factual and legal issues and reach a final disposition in these streamlined matters without the need for an administrative enforcement hearing.  

In a separate action today, as part of its ethics policy project, the Commission today considered and endorsed the Staff recommendations contained in the Report on Gifts: Gifts to City Departments.  That report discusses gifts to City departments, especially gifts that bestow personal benefits on City officials and the impact of current practices on the City’s restricted source rule — a crucial guardrail to prevent pay-to-play and avoid the appearance of undue influence. The report details observed practices on the part of several City departments of accepting gifts from restricted sources and distributing them to City officials both within and outside of the department. The report finds that existing laws that require departments to disclose all gifts from non-City sources are inadequate.  

At its meeting today, the Commission adopted in concept form the recommendations contained in the report to:   

  1. Prohibit any City officer or employee from acting as an intermediary for a restricted source gift by soliciting, accepting, delivering, or otherwise coordinating or facilitating any gift that confers a personal benefit on any City official if the intermediary knows or has reason to know that the source is a restricted source for the recipient.  
  2. Prohibit any City officer or employee from accepting anything from a City department or non-City organization or person that bestows a personal benefit on the officer or employee if the officer or employee knows or has reason to know that the true source of the gift is a restricted source.  
  3. Prohibit restricted sources from giving a gift to a non-City organization or individual if they know or have reason to know that the gift will ultimately benefit City officers or employees for whom the source is a restricted source.  
  4. Prohibit non-City organizations and individuals from acting as an intermediary for a gift that bestows a personal benefit on a City officer or employee if they know or have reason to know that the source of the gift is a restricted source for the officer or employee.  
  5. Create a single, standardized disclosure requirement that allows more complete information about gifts to departments to be presented in a single, readily available location.  
  6. Require any department that uses a gift to the department in a manner that bestows a personal benefit on any City officer or employee, including any tickets distributed in accordance with a ticket policy, to disclose the name of every such officer or employee.  

The Commission’s ethics policy work is designed to strengthen city laws in the wake of the federal corruption investigation. Beginning in January 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice began to bring criminal corruption charges against multiple City officials, employees, and contractors. These charges allege 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 officers and employees. In response, the Ethics Commission embarked on a comprehensive review of the City’s ethics laws to ensure that the types of conduct alleged in the criminal complaints are appropriately prohibited and deterred by City law and that any other relevant weaknesses identified in the laws could be addressed.  

Ethics Staff will now prepare a draft ordinance, in coordination with the City Attorney’s office, that would enact the recommendations contained in the report as well as the Report on Gifts: Gifts to Individuals, which contains recommendations approved by the Commission at its August meeting. The Commission will consider the draft ordinance at a future meeting and can take action at that time to give final approval to the ordinance. The Board of Supervisors and Mayor could then vote to enact the ordinance, or the Commission could act to place the ordinance as a ballot measure in a future election.  

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The San Francisco Ethics Commission was created directly by the City’s voters with the passage of Proposition K in November 1993 and is responsible for the independent and impartial administration and enforcement of laws related to campaign finance, public financing of candidates, governmental ethics, conflicts of interests, and registration and reporting by lobbyists, campaign consultants, permit consultants, and major developers. Our mission is to practice and promote the highest standards of integrity in government.We achieve that by delivering impactful programs that promote fair, transparent, and accountable governmental decision making for the benefit of all San Franciscans. Public service is a public trust, and our aim is to ensure that San Franciscans can have confidence that the operations of the City and County andthedecisions made by its officials and employees are fair, just, and made without any regard to private or personal gain. 

 

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