Wednesday, April 25, 2012

CitiReport on the ethics commissioners

Another very useful report by Larry Bush on CitiReport:

Who are the ethics commissioners?
by Larry Bush

San Francisco’s Ethics Commissioners are political neophytes, unfamiliar with the city’s ethics laws and campaign finance rules, despite a city charter that stipulates appointees must have experience in government ethics laws, campaign finance and public information...

Last year, the Civil Grand Jury concluded that they are a “Sleeping Watchdog” under the thumb of their staff, notably staff director John St. Croix, and recommended a series of changes to stiffen their spine.

Two years ago, the Commission sought to repeal the ban on contributors seeking contracts from Redevelopment, Treasure Island and other agencies under city control but established by state law. In 2009 the Commission also rewrote the city’s lobbyist law, resulting in less public disclosure of City Hall influence peddling.

In November 2011, public distrust of the Commission’s effectiveness in protecting the public interest resulted in the sound defeat of a measure to allow the Commission to rewrite the city law on political consultants without a check off from voters.

Notwithstanding this unimpressive record, the Commission in the past six months has begun exercising a somewhat greater control over the operation of the Ethics Commission. Last month it held its first hearing in several years on the city’s Sunshine Ordinance, directing the staff to implement changes favored by Sunshine advocates.

Each commissioner is appointed by a different city elected official, but the appointing officers have largely ignored the charter’s requirements in making appointments.

Three commissioners have professional or financial ties to firms doing business for the city or with the Elect Ed Lee campaign last November...

Read the rest of the story on CitiReport.

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