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Busted: City Appointees Could Face Dismissal From Office

by Larry Bush on 09/12/2011

in Busted

Nine city appointees and designated employees could be dismissed from their positions and face $5,000 in fines following their repeated failure to comply with the law requiring disclosure of economic interests.

On August 19, the San Francisco Ethics Commission referred the current holders of city appointments or jobs to the California Fair Political Practices Commission for enforcement action. All nine were given warnings as well that the authority that appointed them to office now can dismiss them from their position.

Among the notable non-filers are Patricia Breslin, Executive Director of the Rate Fairness Board that sets water and sewer rates in San Francisco and who is an appointee of the Mayor. During her tenure, Breslin has supported adoption of a plan that will raise residential water and sewer rates by ten percent for each of the next three years while increasing the rates for commercial establishments such as the hotel industry she represents by only five percent.

City appointees and designated employees are required to file an annual Statement of Economic Interest every April 1 under a state law designed to ensure that the public is aware of the financial interests of officials in state and local offices. The statement includes investments, income, gifts, travel and other financial benefits.

A recent study by California Watch of former Mayor Gavin Newsom’s final statement turned up a gift of an expensive pen from a Russian billionaire. Tracking that back, California Watch was able to determine that Newsom had taken the controversial billionaire, once arrested on a charge of murdering his business partner, on a tour of potential investment opportunities in Mission Bay. Newsom had not included the meeting or tour on his calendar and initially Mayor Lee’s office was reluctant to provide details of the event.

The referral of just less than 20 San Francisco officials and employees may be a record high, according to longtime observers of the requirement.

Names are Named

Current officeholders and designated employees referred for enforcement include John McKnight, Workforce Investment Board; Nazly Mohajer, Human Rights Commission; Jeffrey Sterman, Health Authority Board; Walter Park, Access Appeals Board and three designated employees from MTA (Danny Thompson, Mary O’Brien and Steven Bianci) and Jessica Perez from the Department of Public Works.

In addition to the current officeholders and employees, the Ethics Commission referred for enforcement former commissioners and employees Recreation and Park Commissioner Michael Sullivan (Recreation and Parks), Small Business Commissioner Richard Ventura (Small Business), Stephanie Shakosfsy (Port), Dwayne Jones (Housing Authority), George Brown (Housing Authority), Terrance Alan (Entertainment Commission), Astrid Haryati (Arts Commission), and Hunter Stern (Citizens General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee). Also referred was former Entertainment Commission Executive Director Robert Davis.

Dwayne Jones currently holds the position of “San Francisco Advisory” for Platinum Advisors and is President of RDJ Enterprises

All failed to file “leaving office” statements due 30 days after leaving their appointment.

All of those now referred for enforcement action were given two official notices of failure to file and pending enforcement action following the April 1, 2011 filing deadline. The final notice allowed for filing by June 28, 2011 before enforcement action would begin.

All were also informed that “You may be subject to disciplinary action by your appointing authority, including removal from office or termination of employment.”

Mayor Ed Lee is The Decider

Mayor Ed Lee is the appointing authority for Breslin and Mohajer. The Building Inspection Commission appoints Park. Sterman sits on a Board that is appointed by the Board of Supervisors. McKnight is a member of a Board that is part of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Lee also served with Breslin on the Rate Fairness Board until his appointment as Interim Mayor in January 2011. Lee compiled with the reporting requirement and filed his “leaving office” statement as a Rate Fairness Board member in February 2011, within the 30-day period allowed for filing.

CitiReport has requested a response from Mayor Lee on what action, if any, he will take as a result of the enforcement referral and failure to comply with the law. In the Mayor Lee campaign web site, Lee promotes his record on ethics and transparency. CitiReport will provide an update when a response is received.

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