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Ethics Commission Fines Former SFMTA Board of Directors Member Gwyneth Borden $16,000 for Violating Ethics Laws


July 14, 2023

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

At its monthly public meeting Friday, the San Francisco Ethics Commission unanimously approved a stipulated agreement fining Gwyneth Borden, former Vice Chair of the SFMTA Board of Directors, $16,000 for two counts of violating City ethics and lobbying laws. In the proposed Stipulation, Decision, and Order adopted by the Commission, Borden acknowledged responsibility and agreed to pay a monetary penalty for receiving compensation in the amount of $12,500 from a restaurant client of her private consulting business to contact City employees and officers on behalf of her client to assist her client in obtaining a Conditional Use License.  

As authorized by the City Charter, the resolution of violations through a public stipulated agreement enables Respondents and the Ethics Commission to resolve enforcement matters without the need of a lengthier and costlier process involving a hearing on the merits. The Commission is authorized to assess a monetary penalty of up to $5,000 for each violation.

Commission Chair Yvonne Lee highlighted the severity of Borden’s actions and noted the importance of laws under the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction that were violated. Chair Lee commended Ethics Commission Investigators for securing the maximum penalty amount for each count of a violation.

As detailed In the Matter of Gwyneth Borden (SFEC Case No. 1920-081/291), while serving as the Vice Chair of the SFMTA Board of Directors, and having previously served on the Planning Commission, Borden entered into a paid agreement through her private consulting business, Ground Floor Experiences, with the owners of the restaurant Fiorella, to assist them in applying for and obtaining from the Planning Commission a Conditional Use Authorization (“CUA”) to allow Fiorella to operate and use an existing outdoor space at a newly acquired location. Pursuant to the agreement with Fiorella, and in violation of City compensated advocacy laws and lobbying laws, Respondent contacted employees and Commissioners of the Planning Commission as well as Supervisor Dean Preston’s Office on behalf of Fiorella. Respondent engaged in prohibited conduct when she received compensation for contacting employees and officers of the City on behalf of Fiorella while she herself was a City officer. Respondent’s prohibited contacts with the Planning Commissioners also qualified her as a lobbyist. However, Respondent failed to register as a lobbyist within five days after the first contact she made with the Planning Commissioners and did not file a monthly report disclosing these contacts or subsequent monthly reports, in violation of the law.

 The Commission fined Borden $15,000 for the compensated advocacy violation, which represents the full amount Borden was paid, plus an additional $2,500. The Commission also fined Borden $1,000 for lobbying violation, which occurred in connection with the compensated advocacy violation.

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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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