Ethics Commission Whistleblower Beats 'Retaliatory' Complaint

Our most eagle-eyed readers may remember a series of stories we wrote about a whistleblower within the Ethics Commission being hit with a series of oddly timed threats regarding his employment culminating in an anonymous complaint that could have resulted in his ouster from city government.

Ethics staffer Oliver Luby lawyered up after receiving that curiously timed complaint in June, and charged that this was all retaliation against a whistleblower. That charge may never be truly put to rest -- but the complaint is. Over the weekend Luby received an official letter informing him that the charges have been dismissed.

"Since the maximum consequences of an ethics violation could include up to a $5,000 fine, termination of employment and a permanent bar against holding office or employment with the City and County, I am very much relieved that the retaliatory ethics complaint was dismissed," Luby wrote SF Weekly.

Luby's most recent troubles started back in the summer, when he wrote to his supervisors about how it appeared the Ethics Commission was jumping through hoops to avoid citing and fining Supervisor Carmen Chu -- a client of well-connected campaign attorney Jim Sutton -- when Supervisors Gerardo Sandoval and Chris Daly had been punished for near-identical campaign finance transgressions.

Luby's e-mail earned him a stern reprimand describing him as "insubordinate" and bandying about the possibility of his termination. That threat came on the heels of another e-rebuking about possible termination, and was quickly followed by an anonymous complaint filed against him with the Ethics Commission. All of this activity, Luby and his attorney, David Waggoner, claim was a result of Luby filing the whistleblower complaint against Ethics in May. That claim stated that, despite Luby's repeated warnings that Ethics was overcharging a former city candidate for fees he had already paid, a judgement against the candidate including the overcharges had been sent along to the city's collections department. The District Attorney and Controller heeded Luby's complaint and remedied the problem.

Around a week after filing that claim, Luby received an official reprimand for using his office computer to e-mail the California Fair Political Practices Commission to offer his personal input on state campaign finance laws -- a matter in which he could conceivably be considered an expert. This identical charge was mirrored in the anonymous complaint filed shortly thereafter.

While the formal complaint against Luby has been dismissed, the reprimands he received from his bosses -- which, again, contain the identical charges as the dismissed complaint -- have not. He has filed a union grievance aiming to clear up those as well.

Ethics doesn't seem to have been in a hurry to inform Luby of his exoneration. Luby gathers that the complaint against him was dropped at Ethics' Oct. 19 meeting, but the letter he received is dated Oct. 30. It is postmarked Nov. 5. Luby received it on Saturday. 

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