If only S.F. supervisors usually listened to the city attorney 

click to enlarge District Attorney George Gascón’s bare office sparked a political kerfuffle when he solicited donations of furniture to the tune of $26,445.43 — including some from City Hall insider Ron Conway. The DA dutifully filled out a disclosure form, but set off a squabble at the board as supervisors John Avalos and David Campos insisted he’d used the wrong form. - JEFF CHIU/2011 AP FILE PHOTO
  • Jeff Chiu/2011 AP file photo
  • District Attorney George Gascón’s bare office sparked a political kerfuffle when he solicited donations of furniture to the tune of $26,445.43 — including some from City Hall insider Ron Conway. The DA dutifully filled out a disclosure form, but set off a squabble at the board as supervisors John Avalos and David Campos insisted he’d used the wrong form.

In Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors debate over the personal use of furniture, some supervisors took up hours for their own personal use.

Apparently when Attorney General Kamala Harris stepped down from her post as district attorney, she took all her own furniture and her successor, George Gascón, was basically left to operate with a beanbag and an Etch-A-Sketch. So Tuesday, the board voted to allow Gascón to accept $26,445.43 worth of donated furniture for his office and the Victim Services Lounge. But first the board spent more than an hour discussing whether Gascón disclosed the gift on the proper form.

I’ll spare you the minutiae, but basically the state Fair Political Practices Commission decides what is and is not required when officials accept gifts. In this instance, the commission determined that the gifts had to be disclosed on Form 803 (which describes gifts to the city) and not a Form 801 (which describes gifts for personal use) because the stuff now belongs to the District Attorney’s Office, not Gascón personally.

So the issue was settled, right?

Of course not. Even a desk can be political when it is donated by big-time tech investor Ron Conway, a newcomer whose influence in city government frightens progressives and makes old-school San Franciscans suspicious. Conway was the largest contributor to the Gascón furniture fund, giving $9,999.

Instead of saying, “I don’t like your donors and this whole thing stinks so I won’t vote to approve it,” supervisors John Avalos and David Campos hid behind the ridiculous argument that Gascón filed the wrong form.

See, based on the commission’s prior rulings, the city attorney believed that Gascón should have filed a Form 801 rather than the Form 803 he actually used. Of course, the city attorney’s opinion was irrelevant, because when the judge says “chocolate” it doesn’t matter if your lawyer had advised you “vanilla.”

More to the point, there’s no substantive difference between a Form 803 and Form 801. Both are publicly available documents that detail the source of the gifts.

Still, Avalos and Campos whiled away the hours feigning a newfound respect for the City Attorney’s Office and demanding a Form 801.

Remember, these are the same two men who quite openly ignored a city attorney memorandum advising that the 2009 sanctuary-city law that Campos sponsored would run afoul of state and federal laws (it did). And I suppose it’s fitting that the board also voted Tuesday to settle the lawsuit against the city’s cellphone labeling ordinance. The City Attorney’s Office also has spent three years cleaning up that mess, which Avalos and Campos both voted for.

The board voted to endorse the gift to the DA’s Office. But let’s all be sure to remember Avalos and Campos’ hearty endorsements of our sage City Attorney Dennis Herrera next time he warns that a law has no chance of surviving a court challenge.

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Melissa Griffin

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