Draft Minutes – April 8, 2022

Draft Minutes of the Regular Meeting of
The San Francisco Ethics Commission
Friday, April 08, 2022
Hybrid meeting conducted in-person in City Hall Room 400
1 Dr. Carlton B.Goodlett Place, San Francisco
and also held online as a Remote Meeting via WebEx and aired live on SFGovTV
(Approved __, 2022)

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.

(Note: A complete video recording of this meeting is available at SFGovTv.)

COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT: With Chair Yvonne Lee, Vice-Chair Larry Bush, and Commissioners Theis Finlev, Michael Romano, and Argemira Florez Feng attending, a quorum was present.

STAFF PRESENTING: LeeAnn Pelham, Executive Director; Steven Massey, Director of Technology Services; Tyler Field, IS Engineer; Michael Canning, Policy Analyst; Ronald Contreraz, Online Meeting Moderator.

REPRESENTATIVES OF THE OFFICE OF THE CITY ATTORNEY PRESENT: Andrew Shen, Deputy City Attorney.

REPRESENTATIVES OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES PRESENT: Jonathan White, DHR Employee Relations Manager

MATERIALS DISTRIBUTED:

Item 1. Call to order and roll call.

Chair Yvonne Lee convened the meeting at 10:10am and stated that the hybrid meeting is being held pursuant to the Forty-fifth Supplement to Mayoral Proclamation Declaring the Existence of a Local Emergency Dated February 25, 2020, which the Mayor issued February 10, 2022. Meeting Moderator Ronald Contreraz summarized procedures for participation by members of the public for the hybrid meeting.

Item 2. Public comment on matters not appearing on the agenda.

No public comments were received.

CONSENT CALENDAR ITEMS

Item 3. Draft Minutes of the Commission’s February 25, 2022 special meeting.

Item 4. Draft Minutes of the Commission’s March 18, 2022 special meeting.

The Commission took action on Items 3 and 4 concurrently.

Commissioner Finlev made a motion to approve both the February 25, 2022 special meeting minutes and the March 18, 2022 special meeting minutes, which was seconded by Commissioner Romano.

No discussion and no public comment was received.

The motion carried unanimously (5-0).

Motion 220408-01 (Finlev/Romano): Moved, seconded, and passed unanimously (5-0) to approve the February 25, 2022 special meeting minutes and the March 18, 2022 special meeting minutes as drafted.

REGULAR CALENDAR ITEMS

Item 5. UPDATE WITH LABOR NEGOTIATOR – LABOR NEGOTIATIONS [Discussion and Possible Action.

Chair Lee introduced the item and explained the need to go into closed session to discuss labor negotiations. She stated the topic of discussion is the status of the meet and confer process with the San Francisco Municipal Executives Association (MEA) regarding the Commission’s proposed November 2022 ballot measure and regulation amendments. Representatives from DHR were present to participate in closed session.

Chair Lee explained the process that public comment on Item 5 will first be received and then a vote a will be taken on whether to meet in closed session under California Government Code Section 54957.6 and Sunshine Ordinance Section 67.10(e) to discuss labor negotiations. Then, if a closed session is held, the Commission will initiate a closed session meeting with Labor Negotiators and will then reconvene in an open session. Finally, pursuant to Brown Act section 54957.1 and Sunshine Ordinance section 67.12, the Commission will then discuss and vote on a motion whether or not to disclose any action taken or discussion held in the closed session regarding labor negotiations.

Public Comments:

Charles Head, president for Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN) commented on a recent article regarding Debbie Raphael’s resignation for soliciting behested payments from Recology. Head stated it is time to reform the system. Head said business as usual is corrupt, involves pay-to-play, and it’s time to reform business as usual.

No further public comment was received and public comment on the item was closed.

Commissioner Bush commented on an article regarding the City Controller’s Public Integrity Report. He stated that a number of City officials have been arrested or resigned in disgrace, including department heads. Commissioner Bush thinks while the Controller has done a very good job on this issue, we have not yet seen a report from Staff, especially regarding things like the Mayor seeking funds for lighting of City Hall or the Mayoral solicitation for funds for the Superbowl bid and Olympic bid. Many millions of dollars flowed through the Mayor for projects that the Mayor supported which came from groups that sought City contracts. Commissioner Bush expressed a desire to see a report on this regarding the Mayor’s actions.

Commissioner Bush stated he would like the Commission to send a letter to the Controller’s office regarding this issue.

Chair Lee asked Executive Director Pelham to send a letter to the Controller.

Commissioner Finlev stated that as a general matter, he would like to see closed sessions placed at the end of the agenda so that members of the public don’t have to wait while Commissioners are in closed session.

Commissioner Romano moved to meet in closed session under California Government Code Section 54957.6 and Sunshine Ordinance Section 67.10(e) to discuss labor negotiations. The Motion was seconded by Commissioner Finlev and approved unanimously (5-0).

Motion 220408-02 (Romano/Finlev): Moved, seconded, and passed unanimously (5-0) to meet in closed session.

The Commission met in closed session from Closed session from 10:33am to 12:00pm.

Upon resuming its meeting in open session, Commissioner Finlev moved to not disclose what was discussed in closed session. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Romano and approved (4-1), with Commissioner Bush voting in the dissent.

Item 6. Staff presentation and discussion of Public Disclosure Technology Overview and Campaign Finance Dashboards Demonstration.

Director of Technology Services Steven Massey provided an overview of Commission’s public disclosure filing processes, tools, and how the public can access the information online.

Engineer Tyler Field reviewed the Commission’s campaign finance dashboards, which he described as a primary way the public access campaign finance information during elections. Field noted that Staff has held public outreach meetings to inform the public about these tools and plans to do more in the future. Field provided a live demonstration using the campaign finance dashboards.

Commissioner Bush asked questions about some of the data he doesn’t see as available, asking if there is a way of going through all of the behested payments to see behested payments made to Recology? Commissioner Bush asked if the behested payments data is searchable?

Steve Massey explained that there are two behested payment forms, a local and a state form. Both forms are available online, but the local one is the one available in the data set, which is searchable.

Commissioner Bush asked about the lobbyist form and if the purpose of the lobbying is captured in the data and expressed that it should be presented.

Massey stated that the purpose of the contact and person contacted is required on the form. The point when the purpose gets disclosed is when you make a contact, not upon registration.

Commissioner Bush asked about major developers disclosing contributions they make to nonprofits who then endorse proposals made by Major developers. Is that data searchable?

Massey state that this is on list of projects to be done. He noted one of the challenges with the major developer and permit consultant programs is that Staff is looking to secure a vendor that can support a process at a level that exceeds the functionality of DocuSign but does not fit into Netfile. Meeting this need and the requirement to also meet the City’s data security requirements is making this challenging.

Commissioner Bush asked about slate mailers and transferring that to Ethics. Executive Director Pelham stated that there are not plans to make that transfer in the immediate future.

Commissioner Bush stated he wants to put it on the calendar for the immediate future. People are unable to tell if there are City contractors who are providing contributions through slate mails, which he believes is a loophole that campaign consultants are aware of.

Chair Lee stated that this involves staff allocation of responsibilities, and the staff is not yet at full capacity. Chair Lee suggests that this on a future meeting for further discussion.

Commissioner Bush asked for this item to be placed for discussion at the next Commission meeting.

Executive Director Pelham stated that part of the Commission’s regular process is the policy prioritization plan, so that the Commission as a whole can review and identify the range of policies they would like to pursue.

Commissioner Bush stated he is mindful of this process, but also believes that upcoming elections makes this more urgent and therefore it should be discussed sooner.

Commissioner Finlev asked that we not put this on the calendar and trust Executive Director with these types of details. Commissioner Finlev stated the presentation was incredibly detailed and commended the team.

Chair Lee stated that prior to Covid, the Commission staff has shared policy priorities for Commission to discuss.

Commissioner Bush stated that there are no elections next year; if we’re going to act on some of these issues, we have to act in this period. Commissioner Bush stated concerns that independent expenditure contributions who are side-stepping the rules because those contributions are not tracked.

Chair Lee stated that adding on this type of task between now and the June elections might be too much for the Staff to accomplish in that timeframe.

Commissioner Romano stated that the Staff priority should be directed toward the ballot measure that Commission has been working on.

Commissioner Bush stated that in terms of historical background, he wrote the law regarding electronic filing of campaign finance and that this is not a new issue.

Commissioner Finlev thanked staff for the presentation and asked if any of the electronic filings trigger any automatic flag where a potential problem would be forwarded to the audit division to prompt some future enforcement matter.

Massey responded that notifications is something that has been on the staff’s radar, but no automatic notifications exist at this stage.

Enforcement Director Pat Ford stated that the enforcement division is always looking at the dashboards to see if there’s anything that seems problematic in real-time.

Commissioner Florez Feng stated her view that the presentation was very helpful.

Public Comments:

A caller stated that they had been listening to presentation and that there’s a disconnect between the commissioners and the director; they should have consensus. If we fail to do due diligence when the empirical data comes in, then that’s an act of failure. The Commission should do due diligence right now and not kick the can down the street. The City is saturated with corruption and the commissioners must step up and bring about some adjudication.

A second caller stated that they totally agree with the last caller. The caller stated they have never watched Ethics Commission before and found by accident looking for the Elections Commission. The caller stated they have a degree in political science and know corrupt government when they see it. The caller expressed congratulations to Commissioner Bush on his efforts and said Commissioners need to think about their reputation and how they would be regarded in the future.

No further public comment was received and public comment on the item was closed.

Item 7. Discussion and possible action on implementation status report on recommendations of the August 2020 Budget & Legislative Analyst (BLA) Performance Audit of Ethics Commission.

Executive Director Pelham provided an update regarding progress the office has been making on the BLA recommendations. Pelham provided a brief overview of how the audit and recommendations came about, noting that the department agreed with each of the 16  recommendations. The last update was in January regarding specific recommendations focused on enforcement and audit work. At this time two recommendations remain in progress and staff are working to complete those two this fiscal year.

Commissioner Finlev commends staff on making progress towards the recommendations.

Commissioner Romano commended staff on their professionalism and added in reference to prior public comment that he does not perceive any daylight or disagreement between the Commissioners and Executive Director.

Commissioner Bush spoke about the BLA recommendations from 2020, that among the recommendations is ethics training for City employees. Commissioner Bush state that we are still trying to get that approved with City officials and that the process is taken two years to implement something that was deemed urgent and endorsed by Board of Supervisors. He stated there is also a request for lobbyist audits which has not been implemented. While challenges that exceed our capacity believes part of the reason is staffing levels, but we’re staffing up and should be able to move forward. Commissioner Bush stated he is frustrated that there are no benchmarks for planned tasks and that we must implement benchmarks for when things will be done.

Director Pelham responded noting that the required lobbying audits are underway with the goal of completing them and issuing a report this summer.

Commissioner Bush said that the audit report should include information on what the “purpose of the lobbying” is because it appears that the line is left blank in most of the forms.

Public Comments:

A caller stated that they have been monitoring the Ethics Commission and the Sunshine Task Force for over 30 years. The Ethics Commission is dysfunctional, and we are known nationwide as the most corrupt City in the nation. The caller said that the newer commissioners must try to rectify the nonsense that has been going on at the Ethics Commission and that Commissioner Bush is the one commissioner who is very well informed, and others should not stand in his way.

No further public comment was received and public comment on the item was closed.

Item 8. 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.

Director Pelham welcomed Commissioner Florez Feng and provided updates on the first year of electronic filing of the Form 700 for all filers. Pelham stated that 92 percent of all designated employee filers filed their annual statements on time, and all elected City officials filed their forms on time. The on-time filing rate for annual statements of department heads and board members was 89 percent. Staff are continuing to follow up as needed with late filers.

Pelham provided an update on staffing and welcomed the Commission’s newest investigator, Ashley Mockett. She added that all four positions for the Ethics@Work team are in active recruitment.

Chair Lee asked what type of timeline we would have to get the new staff members in place?

Pelham stated that probably not until middle or end of June and that staff is putting together a workplan in preparation for the work to begin this summer.

Public Comments:

A caller stated they watched the deliberations of the Board of Supervisors and one of them was very angry that a City department head took a bribe despite all of the corruption going on in the City. We still have corrupt heads of departments who are corrupt and who take bribes. The caller asked the Ethics Commission to communicate to all directors regarding what they can and cannot do. Rampant corruption is going on with the SF Public Utilities Commission. The caller said that the Ethics Commission has to do due diligence to address corruption that started in 1996.

A caller stated that the deadline for June Ballot was missed and likely the one for November will be missed as well. The caller hopes that before 2025, we will have a ballot measure on the books.

No further public comment was received and public comment on the item was closed.

No action was taken as the item was provided for informational purposes only.

Item 9.  Discussion and possible action on items for future meetings.

Commissioner Romano reiterated the desire that upcoming meetings be largely devoted to the ongoing policy items before the commission.

Commissioner Bush stated that the agenda for the next meeting should include the policy prioritization plan, so that it can be revisited and updated.

No public comments were received.

Item 10. Additional opportunity for public comment on matters not appearing on the agenda pursuant to Ethics Commission Bylaws Article VII Section 2.

No public comments were received.

Item 11. Adjournment.

The Commission adjourned at 1:53 pm.

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