Government Ethics and Conflict of Interest Review

At its September 11, 2020 meeting, the Commission identified a review of the City’s conflict-of-interest rules as a policy priority. This project is essential in light of the ongoing investigations into alleged corrupt activity by numerous City officials and contractors. If true, the allegations against these individuals demonstrate an alarming level of unethical conduct in and around City government and its decision-making processes. This project seeks to learn from the findings of the various investigations and identify improvements to ethics laws and programs to prevent future instances of corruption.

Staff is undertaking this project in multiple phases.

Phase 1: Behested Payments

The first phase focused on behested payments, which are payments made by someone at the request of a public official or employee, usually to a nonprofit organization. Staff held two interested persons meetings at the onset of this project to engage with stakeholders and learn their thoughts on the project’s first phase. Staff’s findings and recommendations for this phase of the project are set forth in the staff report presented at the Commission’s November 13th meeting. Following the presentation of the report, the Commission voted unanimously to recommend legislation prohibiting City officials and employees from soliciting behested payments from persons with business before their respective departments. Staff is currently seeking approval of this legislation by the Board of Supervisors (File No. 201132).

Phase 2: Gifts

The second phase of the project focuses on gift rules. State and local law restricts gifts made to City officials and employees. The ongoing corruption investigations have brought to light potential issues with these gift laws. Staff held two interested persons meetings at the onset of this phase of the project to engage with stakeholders and learn their thoughts on the City’s gift laws and how they could be improved. Staff then conducted research into ethical issues involved with gifts and drafted two reports containing findings and recommendations, which were presented to the Commission at public meetings.

Phase 2 – Part A: Gifts to Individuals

Findings and recommends for the first part of Phase 2 were presented in a staff report focused on gifts to individuals. The report was presented at the Commission’s August 13th meeting. Following the presentation of the report, the Commission voted unanimously to adopt the recommendations contained within the report. Staff is currently drafting the legislation and regulations necessary to realize the recommendations and will present them to the Commission at future public meetings.

Phase 2 – Part B: Gifts to Departments

Findings and recommends for the second part of Phase 2 were presented in a staff report focused on gifts to departments. The report was presented at the Commission’s October 8th meeting. Following the presentation of the report, the Commission voted unanimously to adopt the recommendations contained within the report. Staff is currently drafting the legislation and regulations necessary to realize the recommendations and will present them to the Commission at future public meetings.

Phase 3: Topics in Development

Staff is currently working on the third phase of this project, which will focus on multiple aspects of City ethics and conflict of interest rules. The findings and recommendations associated with this phase will be presented to the Commission at a future public meeting.

For updates on this policy project, check Commission meeting agendas or subscribe to receive automatic updates whenever a new agenda is published via the Interested Persons List. All policy and legislative items the Ethics Commission considers are posted to an agenda prior to the public meeting in which they are discussed and acted upon.

Please contact Senior Policy and Legislative Affairs Counsel Pat Ford at Patrick.Ford@sfgov.org for more information about this policy project.

Links Related to this Policy Project

Interested Persons Meeting Announcements to Discuss:
Staff Reports:
Key Commission Meetings:
  • September 11th, 2020: Discussion and possible action on monthly Staff Policy Report, including Ethics Commission proposed policy prioritization plan for FY21. (Agenda | Minutes | Summary)
  • November 13th, 2020: Presentation of report on behested payments. (Agenda | Meeting Minutes | Summary)
  • August 13th, 2021: Presentation of report on gifts to individuals. (Agenda | Meeting Minutes | Summary)
  • October 8th, 2021: Presentation of report on gifts to departments. (Agenda | Meeting Minutes | Summary)
Legislation:
  • File No. 201132: Ordinance expanding the definition of interested party to include City contractors, persons seeking to influence City officers and employees, registered contact lobbyists, permit consultants, and to prohibit elected officials, department heads, commissioners, and designated employees from soliciting behested payments from interested parties. – Status: Pending Committee Action

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