Can Farrell pass ethical litmus test?

Mayor Ed Lee blocked the cable car tracks while celebrating Willie Mays at the Cable Car Museum. (twitter.com/Bob_Gunderson)

Mayor Ed Lee blocked the cable car tracks while celebrating Willie Mays at the Cable Car Museum. (twitter.com/Bob_Gunderson)

It looks like Supervisor Mark Farrell is holding his finger on the trigger to budget cuts of a San Francisco department he’s actively suing.

Somehow, “conflict of interest” doesn’t seem to encapsulate how nutty this is.

It all started when the San Francisco Ethics Commission voted 5-0 to fine Farrell for $191,000, alleging he illegally coordinated with his independent expenditure committee during his 2010 supervisor campaign.

At the time, Ethics Commissioner Peter Keane eloquently argued how Farrell’s independent expenditure staff was incapable of raising $191,000, from deep pocketed richie-riches like Thomas Coates and Dede Wilsey, on their own.

To do so, the committee would’ve needed help from Farrell.

To no one’s surprise, that did not sit well with Farrell, who filed suit against the Ethics Commission in Superior Court last week. He called out Keane in particular as “biased” in the suit.

In his lawsuit, Farrell’s attorneys said the Ethics Commission was on a “witch hunt.” They said the commission is guilty of a “gross violation” of the supervisor’s “rights” and was propagating a “miscarriage of justice.”

Now, frighteningly, Farrell is the chair of a budget committee that may decide the Ethics Commission’s budget come June.

This is all after the Ethics Commission asked for a budget increase last January so it could actually do the job of investigating shady politicians in this town.

We asked Farrell whether he’ll recuse himself from voting on the commission’s budget, and he ducked a phone call with On Guard. Instead, he sent a statement.

“At the advice of the City Attorney, Supervisor Farrell will not be recusing himself from any budget discussion regarding any City Department during the City’s budget process,” wrote Jess Montejano, legislative aide to Supervisor Farrell.

Yikes. That’s bad news for ethics, depending on how upstanding a guy Farrell is.

Farrell’s choice: He can vote to gut the Ethics Commission’s budget, a show of personal vengeance that could give shady San Francisco politicians a pass. Or he could vote to help the Ethics Commission pay for more investigators — and improve a commission he personally called out in a lawsuit.

His decision could have beaucoup big repercussions for The City.

At an Ethics Commission meeting in January, Keane said, “The City has slid into a fair amount of corruption, tremendously soft corruption but corruption. It’s pay to play. It’s a game of bribery, whether or not we can actually identify it as bribery, it’s there.

“Our group is the group that should be ferreting that out and getting on top of that and reversing that.”

Let’s call this Farrell’s Honesty Litmus Test. Come June, we’ll see what he’s made of.

***

Seems Mayor Ed Lee was in such a darn hurry to wish Willie Mays happy birthday, he forgot all about one of those pesky legal deals — you know, they call ’em laws.

In a photo tweeted by local Twitter user @panhenomium, Mayor Lee’s Chevy Volt can be seen pulled up on the sidewalk by the Cable Car Museum, where inside Cable Car No. 24 was dedicated to Mays on his birthday.

Lee can be seen walking up the cable car tracks. Local car-lover and parody-Twitter persona “Bob Gunderson” gussied the photo up with a meme font, captioned “Drives 2 miles from City Hall, Parks on the sidewalk, blocks cable car path. SF’s ‘Vision Zero’ leader.”

Oy vey, Mr. Mayor, couldn’t your bodyguards just circle the block?

***

Everybody wants to help the homeless, but no one wants to do it in their neighborhood. So goes the harsh reality as supervisors and officials struggle to find a spot to place those darned homeless Navigation Centers.

It’s rare that public comment is anything but snooze-worthy. But funnyman, union organizer and San Francisco Examiner columnist Nato Green livened up a hearing on Navigation Centers last Thursday while speaking for more Navigation Centers throughout The City.

“I want to suggest possible locations for Navigation Centers,” he said to the Board of Supervisors. First, “the dream house being raffled up, I believe it is in St. Francis Woods … I’d like to recommend Larry Ellison’s house on billionaire’s row … Willie Brown left his heart in San Francisco, more specifically at [restaurant] Jardiniere. Fortunately there’s a space for about twelve hundred people in the cavernous hole where his heart and soul used to be.”

Zing! Pow! Right in the kisser. Sorry, Willie, but he’s got you there. Green’s last suggestion?

“I’d also like to volunteer the opera house … No one likes opera, people who like opera are horrible, and I’m sure I can teach people to sing in Latin if it’s required.”

What do you think readers, any suggestions for Navigation Centers? Send ’em my way, and I may print some here next week.

***

Some eagle-eyed readers pointed out that Supervisor Scott Wiener (and state senate candidate) is conspicuously missing from the state senate page for candidate statements, in June’s ballot.

So, was someone at the printing press hitting the bottle? Did Wiener, the notorious “machine” blow a deadline?

Well, no. Turns out, it’s all in the rules. Wiener waived campaign spending limits, and as such isn’t allowed to purchase space in the California voter’s guide for a candidate statement. Those limits are $846,000 in the primary and $1,269,000 in the general election.

Catching up with incumbent State Sen. Mark Leno at a recent event, he said it’ll be a challenge for Supervisors Jane Kim and Wiener to reach voters amidst the presidential election – perhaps a good reason to justify taking all that dough.

Frankly, between Trump, Trump Trump, and feelin’ the Bern, Leno said, “It’s going to be hard for Jane or Scott to break through that noise… It’s going to be loud.”

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each Tuesday. Email him at joe@sfexaminer.com.Ethics CommissionSupervisor Mark Farrell

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