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Executive Director’s Report for March 2024


Date: March 18, 2024

To: Members of the Ethics Commission

From: Patrick Ford, Executive Director

Subject: Agenda Item 4 – Executive Director’s Report

Summary and Action Requested

This report provides various programmatic and operational highlights since the last report.

No action is required by the Commission, as this item is for informational purposes only.

Proposition D Update

On March 5, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition D, which was placed on the ballot by the Ethics Commission last year. While the official vote count is not yet finalized, Proposition D appears to have generated a level of support rarely seen by voters, receiving more than 89% of the vote. Since 1907, only 14 City ballot propositions have received more than 89% of the vote (based on data available from 1,990 propositions). The most recent of which was more than 30 years ago in 1993. Staff issued a press release regarding the approval on March 6.

In January, the Commission reviewed draft regulations regarding Section 3.218 as it will be amended by Proposition D. These draft regulations have been noticed to City bargaining units by the Department of Human Resources – Employee Relations Division (ERD). City bargaining units have a period of time during which they may meet with the City to discuss the proposed regulations. Staff anticipates having an update for the Commission on this process at its May meeting.

The Ethics@Work team is spearheading the implementation of Proposition D, especially considering the education and training needs. Materials will be produced and released three months prior to the measure’s effective date. These will help outline what is changing and how officers and employees can comply with the rule changes. Two live, interactive trainings are planned, as well as four hours of self-study content. In addition, past materials will be updated to reflect the new standards established by this measure.

Budget Submission for FY25 and FY26

Departmental budget submissions for the fiscal years 2024-2025 (FY25) and 2025-2026 (FY26) were due on February 21, 2024. Following the Commission’s second budget hearing on February 9th, our office submitted its FY25-FY26 Ethics Commission Budget request to the Mayor’s Office by the deadline. The Commission’s proposed budget seeks to secure continued funding for its core functions at its current baseline operating budget of $6.87 million in FY25. In FY26, the Commission proposes an additional $127k to its $7.06 million baseline budget. Staff has initiated discussions with the Mayor’s Budget Office to provide additional information regarding the Commission’s budget request.

The Mayor is expected to propose a balanced budget to the Board by June 1, 2024. The Board of Supervisors (BOS) then considers the budget and must send a balanced budget back to the Mayor for signature by August 1, 2024. In advance of the budget process, the BOS Budget and Appropriations Committee has published its budget hearing calendar, which includes the dates for departmental budget presentations. The Ethics Commission’s departmental presentation is scheduled for Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Staff will continue to follow up on the budget approval process and provide updates to the Commission. For background information regarding the Commission’s budget proposals and future updates visit the budget webpage.

Campaign Finance Workshop for Local Journalists

On February 15th, Ethics Commission Staff presented “SF Campaign Finance 101” to a group of more than fifteen local journalists. The event was organized by the Society of Professional Journalists – Northern California, and hosted by KQED at their headquarters. This workshop presented an overview of the City’s campaign finance laws, demonstrated how journalists can access campaign finance data, and provided an opportunity for attendees to ask questions to Commission staff. This presentation was provided by Michael Canning (Policy & Legislative Affairs Manager), Tyler Field (Senior IS Engineer), and Ryan Abusaa (Engagement & Compliance Officer).

Local journalists and news outlets are some of the primary users of the campaign finance data the Commission collects and displays. Their use of this data in their coverage of elections is vital to helping the public understand how money is spent on local elections. Events like February’s workshop help these journalists, and the public, get the most benefit from the campaign finance disclosures through increasing understanding of the law and the Commission’s data systems. Workshops also serve as stakeholder engagement opportunities where staff can solicit feedback about how the Commission’s programs can be improved to better serve the community.

Campaign Finance Training Update

Engagement & Compliance completed a training series for filers in the campaign finance program. Staff conducted five trainings for treasurers of county central committee candidate committees and ballot measure committees for the March 5th primary.

Additionally, staff sent four courtesy reminder emails for pre-election and semi-annual deadlines. Staff assisted filers and processed a total of 478 campaign statement (Form 460) filings between January and March. These Form 460s covered the 2023 year-end semi-annual deadline (January 31st), as well as the first pre-election deadline (January 25th), the second pre-election deadline (February 22nd), and the third pre-election deadline (March 1st) for the March election.

Form 700 Filing and Training Update

With the support of Ethics@Work staff, Engagement & Compliance conducted annual trainings for Form 700 Filing Officers & Liaisons in January and February with a total of 52 attendees. Additionally, staff conducted two Form 700 Filer Information Sessions, providing a total of 226 attendees across two sessions with a presentation on how to complete and submit their filings. In addition to these trainings, Engagement & Compliance staff have sent three filing reminder emails to 5,545 filers. As of March 18th, 3,114 filers had submitted their Annual Form 700. The deadline is April 2nd.  

CFRO Regulation Amendments in Development

The Policy Division is developing potential amendments to the Commission’s regulations on the Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance (CFRO). The main amendments being considered would allow the Commission to replace the current Signature Verification Card requirement with a more modern, streamlined approach, which would make it easier for filers to securely submit their documents electronically. Other minor amendments to the CFRO regulations are also being explored, including the format of documents that must be submitted by persons undergoing an audit or investigation. Staff held two interested persons meetings regarding these potential changes earlier this month. Staff anticipates presenting these draft regulation amendments to the Commission during the April meeting.

Audit Update

For the November 2020 election, sixteen supervisorial candidate committees received public financing and are subject to mandatory audit. For the November 2022, election, five supervisorial candidate committees received public financing and are subject to mandatory audit. The Commission completed four of the sixteen mandatory audits from the 2020 election and another two audits are expected to be completed by the end of FY24.  The remaining ten audits from the 2020 election and the five audits from the 2022 election have been assigned to an external vendor, Macias Gini & O’Connell LLC (MGO). MGO has targeted completion of all of the audits by the end of FY24.

In advance of the November 5, 2024, election, the Commission has received five public financing requests from four supervisorial candidates and one mayoral candidate. The requests are currently under review with eligibility determinations expected to be completed within 30 days.

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