Barnstorming SF pols may have to pay for security

City officials campaigning outside San Francisco for higher office would be forced to pay for their security detail under proposed legislation.

The controversy about costs to protect politicians began as a question about how much is spent on providing security for Mayor Gavin Newsom. The issue started when it was reported that a police officer drove a city-owned hybrid sport utility vehicle to Montana for the mayor’s wedding in July 2008.

The inquiries increased as Newsom spent a lot of time outside The City campaigning to become California’s next governor. He abandoned that bid last month.

The Police Department, which provides the security detail, has routinely refused to disclose costs to protect Newsom, saying it would jeopardize security. Other mayors in other cities, however, do not keep the costs hidden.

But proposed legislation would expose a portion of the costs.

The bill, introduced by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, would require an elected city official who travels outside San Francisco and engages in campaign activity for federal, state or local office to submit a travel schedule and declare the amount of time spent on activities and meetings, and whether the trip was campaign-related. The elected official would have to reimburse The City for costs associated with the security detail provided during the campaign-related activities.

The Board of Supervisors Rules Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the legislation today. It would require a vote by the full board to become law.

Mirkarimi said the use of the security details in such a situation is “a practice that has gone unchecked, and it needs to be reined in.”

“Resources should not be used or commingled when one is campaigning for higher office,” he said.

The Mayor’s Office, however, said the security is a matter for the Police Department.

“The appropriate level of security for the mayor, other public officials and visiting dignitaries should be decided by the San Francisco Police Department,” Newsom spokesman Brian Purchia said.

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