San Francisco city workers flout moonlighting rules

San Francisco city workers are required to disclose when they moonlight, but the departments whose employees are most likely to work elsewhere have no record of these potential conflicts of interest.

Since 2009, about 100 city employees have formally notified their superiors about other jobs. But employees of the Fire and Police departments have not done so once, according to city records.

“We don’t really track secondary employment,” Fire Department Lt. Mindy Talmadge said. “It’s the individual’s responsibility to report secondary employment or to request permission for secondary employment, and we’re not aware of any forms that have been submitted.”

Civil-service rules define failure to comply with these regulations as “insubordination, subject to disciplinary action.” But while it is an open secret that many public safety employees work second jobs, there is no evidence of anyone doing anything about it. 

For instance, firefighter James Bustamante earned $117,000 with $21,000 in premium pay last fiscal year, according to city records. Yet he is a defense attorney as well.

Bustamante has taken on high-profile legal cases, including defending the head of the Hells Angels Frisco chapter on narcotics and marijuana charges and clearing a man of conspiracy in the 1971 killing of police Sgt. John Young.

Meanwhile, the LinkedIn profile of police Officer Alvin Louie identifies him as president of Hana Zen Yakitori restaurant. Yet his wife, Angie, said she runs the restaurant and Alvin does not play any part in its operations.

Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said she has been told the rules do not apply to workers who are self-employed or own their own business. But the rules do not say that, and they clearly state they apply to compensated duties performed “for another employer or appointing officer.”

In 2009, the Department of Human Resources tried to change this interpretation but ran into opposition. The department is expected to try again soon. 

In the meantime, once an HR director receives a moonlighting form, they must find that an employee has “economic need” or another special reason to approve the request. Also, moonlighting is impermissible where “substantial unemployment exists,” and employees are not allowed to work more than 20 hours a week or three hours a day.

The forms that have been filed by city employees disclose second jobs as diverse as preparing taxes or coaching girls’ volleyball, and the range of workers includes building inspectors and sheriff’s deputies.

Just because a city worker takes a second job does not mean there is a conflict of interest, said Judy Nadler, a former Santa Clara mayor and government ethics expert at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

But Nadler said a firefighter or police officer could use their stature in the community to gain an unfair advantage over competitors.

“I think that if you’re a public employee, a best practice would be that you certainly alert your supervisor and you make sure that you check with the city attorney or the ethics commission that there is no conflict,” Nadler said.

For instance, many of Bustamante’s cases involve the seizure of drugs and money. Money seized in drug raids goes directly into The City’s coffers, which goes to pay his salary as a firefighter. Bustamante did not return calls for comment.

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