By Chris Roberts
By Joe Eskenazi
By Albert Samaha
By Mike Billings
By Rachel Swan
By Erin Sherbert
By Joe Eskenazi
By Albert Samaha
I would like to clarify a few of the points in "City Slackers" (July 5).
The DA's office has diligently pursued every ethics complaint brought through our doors. Specifically, Supervisor Terence Hallinan's complaint was rejected based upon the facts of the case and for no other reason. Hallinan's complaint was rejected not only by this office, but also by the city attorney and the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). Each agency agreed with us that Hallinan's allegations simply were not actionable.
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.