A Fine Mess

Talk about a hangover: The San Francisco Police Officers Association dumped $16,000 into last fall's race for District 6 supervisor, betting mayoral suckup Rob Black would unseat incumbent lefty Chris Daly. Daly, of course, stomped Black on Election Day, beating the upstart by more than 8 percentage points.

If getting trounced at the polls weren't bad enough, now the cop union is also getting stuck with a hefty fine for its campaign activities. The San Francisco Ethics Commission, which regulates political donations at the local level, is coming after the POA's political action committee, seeking $23,379 in fines for 17 transgressions dating back to the fall of 2004. According to a commission document, the union broke the law when spending money on behalf of supervisor candidates including Black, Aaron Peskin, Michela Alioto-Pier, and Sean Elsbernd (the latter three are all currently in office), as well as a trio of ballot measures.

"The POA, obviously, should have their act together and they didn't in this case," says Charles Marsteller, a longtime good-government activist. "The magnitude of the fine means Ethics is trying to send a message."

The fine is one of the harsher punishments meted out in recent years, and union brass apparently don't want to talk about it — honchos Gary Delagnes and Kevin Martin didn't return our phone calls. In their defense, it looks like the POA is getting slapped for a technical paperwork screw-up. The union mistakenly filed numerous spending reports with the city's Elections Department instead of the Ethics Commission. So, it wasn't like they were trying to hide anything — they just turned over their reports to the wrong bureaucrats.

John St. Croix, executive director of the Ethics Commission, thinks the cops made an honest mistake. "I'd be inclined to believe they were confused," says St. Croix, noting that he's knocked the fine down from $35,153. Very sporting, John.

At press time, however, it still wasn't clear how much the POA would actually wind up paying: Union heavies plan to appeal the fine in hopes of getting it reduced even further. Let's hope they file the paperwork with the right people.

 
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