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Questionable sit-lie video pulled

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The makers of a pro-sit-lie video pulled a high-ranking officer’s testimony Thursday for fear of breaking ethics rules about campaigning in uniform.

The video, produced by the Coalition for Civil Sidewalks in favor of Proposition L on the Nov. 2 ballot in The City, includes testimonials from business owners, elected officials and city employees.

Park Station Capt. Teresa “Teri” Barrett also appears in the video for a quick one-liner while wearing her Police Department-issued uniform.

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“Civil sidewalks pretty much says it all,” she said.

But wearing a uniform while campaigning breaks ethics rules, according to a memo sent to department heads by the City Attorney’s Office on Aug. 20.

“City officers and employees may not participate in political activities­ of any kind while in uniform,” the memo reads. “City officers or employees are in uniform any time they are wearing all or any part of a uniform that they are required or authorized to wear when engaged in official duties.”

Ethics Director John St. Croix confirmed the prohibition on campaigning in uniform. He said it could result in an investigation, and a violation would most likely warrant a warning.

Barrett was instrumental in hearing Haight Street merchants’ pleas for a law that would address aggressive people who lie on city sidewalks all day and harass tourists and customers. But after the Board of Supervisors rejected the law and it was placed on the ballot, Barrett and Police Chief George Gascón were held to stricter ethical guidelines.

After a story in The San Francisco Examiner ran, Barrett asked the campaign to have her quote pulled from the video, according to Coalition for Civil Sidewalks spokesman Alex Tourk.

“We believe we were operating within the confines of the law, but we’re removing the very short clip at the request of Captain Barrett to avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” he wrote in a statement. “Captain Barrett is an outstanding public servant, and we apologize to her and the police department if the video subjects them to any unnecessary scrutiny.” 

Some of that scrutiny is coming from City Hall insiders on another issue. A mailer asking for Prop. L campaign contributions includes the letterhead, “from the desk of George Gascón, Chief of Police” and goes on to say, “I am making a direct appeal to you to help raise funds to educate the voters.”

Tucked below Gascón’s signature is the fine print, saying he only uses the title for “identification purposes” and that the letter is “not printed at public expense.”

Competing issues

Election Day is Nov. 2.

Prop. L Would make it illegal to sit or lie on city sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Prop. M Could overturn Prop. L if it gets more votes

bbegin@sfexaminer.com



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