Aside from the Hallinan case, your writers refer to 12 cases referred to this office for "further action" by the FPPC. In 11 of the cases, the FPPC has already concluded matters and punished the violators with fines of many thousands of dollars. In the 12th case (that of former Supervisor Wendy Nelder), the accusations were not supported by the facts.
While this office will continue to probe for criminal violations of the San Francisco Charter and the Political Reform Act, we simply do not have the resources to duplicate the functions of the FPPC. Further, any decision to duplicate the functions of the FPPC would cause a fundamental disruption in the prosecution of serious economic crimes and also violent felonies including hate crimes, rape, and murder.
Arlo Smith, District Attorney
Thomas A. Bogart, Assistant DA
Fine, Fine, Fine
Your article on ethics enforcement at City Hall ("City Slackers," July 5) criticized my office. While I welcome constructive criticism, yours missed the mark in several areas.
First, the article challenged my decision not to force BART Director James Fang into a full-blown trial over his money laundering in the 1991 mayoral election. But Fang agreed to pay the maximum civil penalty under the law. Thus, the city had nothing to gain (and much to lose) by prosecuting a civil lawsuit.
Your story suggests that a trial would have made it "difficult for ... Fang to maintain [his] political job." My responsibility, however, is to exact the penalties that the law imposes, not to use courtrooms for political ends.
Your story also suggests that my office has pursued other violations because my career depends on the power brokers I am charged with policing. I know several "power brokers," including elected officials, who would be surprised to hear that I am shy about taking them on publicly when I believed they have breached the public's trust.
Indeed, in the area of enforcing campaign laws, my office is "the most active city attorney's office in the state," according to Darryl East, the chief enforcement officer of the Fair Political Practices Commission. East says he made this comment to your reporters.
To be sure, we are not as effective as we would be if, like other law enforcement agencies, we had subpoena power. Without that power, we cannot "follow the money" if the target of a complex money-laundering investigation decides not to cooperate. Our only option is to work with offices that have subpoena power. Unfortunately, joint investigations are not always the most productive way to pursue lawbreakers.
To correct this problem, I intend to ask the Board of Supervisors for an ordinance authorizing the city attorney to subpoena records in cases involving alleged violations of the city's campaign laws and ethics laws. If the board agrees, the City Attorney's Office will have the means to do the job that your newspaper and the people of San Francisco expect.
Louise H. Renne, City Attorney
"City Slackers" (July 5) makes a brief reference to the work of the Select Committee on Charter Reform. Strangely, the authors say that the committee "had been steadily loosening ethics provisions." In fact, all ethics provisions contained in the current charter are carried over into the new charter, unchanged. The three examples you cite are inaccurate.
First, the current charter does not require commissioners to resign before seeking public office. I did propose such a new requirement, which was strongly opposed by some activists, notably Joel Ventresca, who saw it as a denial of First Amendment rights.
Second, the Select Committee did, in fact, approve the amendment barring private lobbying contacts by supervisors with commissioners. Under the proposed charter, supervisors may only speak before a "public" commission meeting on matters other than personnel or contracts. Public meetings of commissions, as you know, are subject to the Brown Act and Sunshine Ordinance.
Third, "a new, stricter definition of official misconduct" was not rejected. The current charter contains no definition of official misconduct. The committee voted to put a strict definition of official misconduct in the charter.
Finally, your writers say that I apologized to Supervisor Hallinan for a hit piece that targeted him. Untrue. Since I wasn't responsible for such a piece, I had no reason to apologize.
Barbara Kaufman, Supervisor
George Cothran and Larry Bush respond: Supervisor Hallinan confirms that Supervisor Kaufman apologized to him regarding the hit piece against him. "She apologized for her husband giving [money] to it," states Hallinan for the record. Notably, Kaufman does not address the allegation that her own campaign manager also was involved in the production of the hit piece as part of a strategy to insure Kaufman's own election.
The charter rewrite now under way does weaken ethics rules in other respects and did fail to enact existing precedents into the charter. At present, supervisors are barred from testifying before city commissions; Kaufman's committee has eliminated that ban from the charter section aimed at curbing supervisors' interference in the management of departments. On a second point, it is a long-standing practice for commissioners to resign if they intend to run for elective office, although Mayor Jordan has not followed this precedent. Even Jordan now proposes a charter amendment to require resignations in such circumstances, but Kaufman's committee has rejected it.
Art Is a Jealous Mistress
"Art Attack" (Bay View, July 5) succeeded in condensing and covering the city's arts funding process, but I would like to clarify some important points.
The issue is not the Big Six, but the city's lack of a coherent arts policy that treats all artists and art forms equitably. We are concerned that emerging small and midsize organizations based in diverse cultures do not have the same access to public funds as do their European-American counterparts. They must have an opportunity to grow to their fullest potential within the communities they serve. The economic power of stable arts organizations is proven in their significant impact on employment, small business development, trade, tourism, and attractiveness to outside investment and business relocation.
The debate should not be about affirmative action. Diversification of the opera, symphony, and ballet boards may help address accessibility, but having a Latina ballerina is different from teaching and performing a ballet folklorico in the Mission.
Kary Schulman, director of Grants for the Arts, is quoted as saying that a peer review process can be capricious. We believe in the integrity and the professionalism of artists. Their ability to be fair and reasonable has been proved repeatedly on such panels as S.F.'s Arts Commission, the California Arts Council, and the NEA.
As the city's chief administrative officer, Bill Lee is concerned that tourists continue to flood the city. Isn't building tourism really about investing in and packaging a product? For example, when I go to New Orleans, I go to listen to jazz and witness works by its dynamic African-American visual artists. That city has realized its strengths and made them so accessible you can't help but stumble into them. Our leaders must do the same -- create a master plan for advancing and promoting San Francisco as the multicultural center of artistic expression in our nation.
Maria X. Martinez, President
San Francisco Arts Democratic Club