Clerk of Board of Supervisors Falls on Sword, Claims Supes' Failure to Obey Law Was All Her Fault (Even Though It Wasn't)

Categories: Government
Clerk.jpg
Angela Calvillo
As noted previously on this page, we've always admired Board of Supervisors Clerk Angela Calvillo's professionalism and steadiness when dealing with deranged lunatics during public comment sessions at meetings. And now we add that we can add that we admire her candor in claiming total responsibility for the Board's disregard of an anti-corruption campaign finance law for more than two years. It was a stand-up gesture, as was Calvillo's pledge to obey the law from this point forward. And yet, this ain't all her fault.

Here's the backstory, in a nutshell:

In 2006, the Ethics Commission's staff devised an ordinance calling for elected officials who vote upon city contracts of $50,000 or greater to report this within five days to the commission; this rule was meant to spot any "pay for play" where those awarded contracts would, in turn, donate to the elected officials making those decisions. The Board of Supervisors approved the ordinance by a 10-0 vote; six of those Supes are still on the board. Then, last year, Mayor Gavin Newsom placed Measure H on the ballot. This initiative, which essentially affirmed and expanded the ordinance, was overwhelmingly approved.

Of course neither the mayor nor the supes ever made those filings. Yet no one got in trouble because the Ethics Commission never bothered to enforce this law, officially sending out a notice on Dec. 31, 2008 informing the city's elected officials to not even bother making the filings anymore.

Calvillo told SF Weekly she hadn't heard of this law until we called and started asking about it. Her research turned up a March 2007 memo from the Ethics Commission informing her predecessor that this law was now in effect (actually, it already had been for quite some time). But, between the March 2007 note and the Dec. 2008 curtailment notice, there was no communication between Ethics and the Board of Supervisors regarding this law.

"As clerk, I should have known about this and been complying," says Calvillo. "I take full responsibility for this. In fact, the Board will comply with the law even though the Ethics Commission is not requiring departments to file."

And yet, if SF Weekly's phone call could have spurred the Board to file, it stands to reason that a letter or call from Ethics could have done the same -- years ago. And it isn't as if Ethics' staff wasn't aware that this law was being ignored by virtually every elected official in the city and not enforced by the Commission. An Ethics Commission internal memo from August of last year acquired by SF Weekly via a records request suggests a "widespread failure" to file, and recommended to Executive Director John St. Croix and others that "formal written notices" be sent to all city elected officials. Instead, of course, St. Croix declared the law "unenforceable" and excused city officials from following it. (read the memo here: 08.8.18 OL email on 126 contract disclosure.pdf)

It remains unclear who in the mayor's office should have been responsible for making those filings. Our calls were shunted to the mayor's office of of communications -- and you have a better chance of winning a road game in the snow with a deliriously feverish Alex Smith as your quarterback than you do of getting a call back from them.

We'll see if they give the cold shoulder to Calvillo, though. Since she's now taking the requirement to file deadly seriously, she doesn't want to have laxness on the part of the mayor's office lead to an inability to file by the Supes. So she's going to be making some calls.

"I would want to coordinate with them. A lot of the mayor's departments are going to be submitting contracts to the Board and I want to make sure they at least submit forms to us so we can submit to Ethics," she says.    

Hmm. This will be interesting.

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