Ethics Appointment Delayed; New Applicant Emerges

by Larry Bush on 03/22/2011

in Empty Chairs

Board of Supervisors consideration of its appointee to the Ethics Commission came to a sudden and surprising halt at its March 17 Rules Committee meeting when Supervisor Sean Elsbernd requested a delay so that a new candidate could be heard.

The Rules Committee had heard testimony from Dorothy Liu and Allen Grossman, two candidates who applied earlier, as well from more than a dozen supporters on behalf of either Liu or Grossman.

With public comment closed, Elsbernd asked whether an additional candidate had submitted an application, and informed that a new application was submitted, asked that the Rules Committee delay action until the new candidate can be heard.

“This is a six-year term and we have someone who [has not been heard],” Elsbernd said. “I would hate to move forward without giving him the opportunity to be heard. My thought is to continue this item to our next meeting so his application could at least be heard.”

The new applicant is Julius Turman, an employment law attorney with Morgan, Lewis has been State Senator Mark Leno’s proxy at the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee and currently serves as co-chair of the Alice B. Toklas Club’s Policy Committee.

Turman’s application was received a little over an hour before the Rules committee started.

Turman contributed last year to Scott Weiner, Theresa Sparks and Rebecca Prozan, all candidates for Supervisor. He also contributed recently to the Cisneros for Treasurer, Re-elect Herrera and the Democratic County Central Committee. All of those campaigns, as well as the Toklas Club, are subject to audit, review and enforcement for violations by the Ethics Commission.

Turman also was praised by the Bar Association for his work on behalf of LGBT diversity in the legal profession and has been active with the Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF). He also was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Jersey.

Turman already has secured the support of Supervisor Scott Weiner, whose office notified Allen Grossman in explaining the supervisor’s refusal to meet with Grossman regarding the Ethics Commission.

The Rules Committee delay was interpreted by some as a slap at Board President David Chiu who reportedly supports Liu. In her testimony, Liu referred to her past working relationship with Chiu at the Asian American Bar Association.

At the same Rules Committee meeting, Elsbernd thwarted the nomination of David Campos to a regional transportation body, substituting Scott Weiner for the appointment. The nomination of Campos also reportedly was supported by Chiu.

The Rules Committee heard from Dorothy Liu, an attorney who has been active in community organizations but has not previously been involved in City government, and Allen Grossman, a favorite of critics of the Ethics Commission who believe that it has been reluctant to act on its mandate. Grossman, also an attorney, successfully sued the Ethics Commission last year to require that it comply with the law.

Liu, Grossman Testify

At its March 17 Rules Committee meeting, Kim questioned applicants Dorothy Liu and Allen Grossman on issues ranging from televising the Ethics Commission meetings, defining who should be required to register as a lobbyist, and the greatest unmet challenge at the Ethics Commission.

Liu and Grossman took opposite positions on several of the issues.

Liu described the issue of televising Ethics Commission meetings as “a tough one for me,” adding “I would just think through those issues and arguments a little bit, weigh both sides a little more before I come to a decision on that.”

Grossman strongly endorsed televising the Ethics Commission’s sessions, saying “Yes, absolutely.”

The current Ethics Commission has voted down broadcasting its sessions. However, other City commissions such as Police, Planning, Redevelopment and Board of Permit Appeals that hear and adjudicate complicated issues do televise their sessions.

Liu sidestepped the question of who should have to register as a lobbyist, stating “To be honest with you, I would need to review more carefully the argument for and against that as presented to the commission before I could decide on it.” At the same time, Liu said she understood there are some exceptions regarding who must register as a lobbyist. “Attorneys don’t need to register as lobbyists. I understand there is some frustration with that.”

However, attorneys have had to register when they undertake lobbying activities since 1970 following a court decision.

Grossman didn’t open the door to any exceptions, stating, “I think anybody who is a
hired gun to interface with a political official should register.”

On the issue of the greatest unmet challenge before the Ethics Commission, Liu raised the issue of rewriting rules and requirements, something that has preoccupied the Commission for most of the past six years.

Liu would like to see the Commission “draft rules and regulations that are easy for the public to understand, easy to comply with, but at the same time strike a balance that is not a hindrance or burden to the public.”

Grossman cited the need for the Commission to be more transparent with the public. “I think it is the slow realization that open government is important for what it does. “Open government and good government work together, hand in hand, “ said Grossman.

The Rules Committee will hear from Turman at a Rules Committee meeting that has not yet been calendared.

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