Ethics Commission Executive Director LeeAnn Pelham, right, said a funding boost is required for the commission to do its job properly. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

Corruption charges bolster Ethics Commission’s budget demands

The new head of San Francisco’s Ethics Commission is calling for a 30 percent increase to the department’s budget for next fiscal year — a defiant stance given that Mayor Ed Lee has called upon city departments to slash spending by 1.5 percent.

But Executive Director LeeAnn Pelham, former Los Angeles Ethics Commission executive director, said the funding boost was the only way to “move the Ethics Commission’s own work to the next level of effectiveness, accomplishment and public trust.”

Pelham said the Ethics Commission requires a budget of $3.38 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, up $782,189 from the current year’s budget. The mayor’s budget instructions would cut nearly $40,000 from the current budget.

“We’ve have been flat for almost a decade,” Pelham said of the agency’s historic funding level.

“While robust, these recommendations are necessary to begin to equip the Commission with the resources needed to fully achieve the broad voter mandate it has been charged with the responsibility to achieve,” said Pelham’s budget report.

Ethics Commissioner Peter Keane said the proposal was the right approach and pointed to last week’s corruption charges by the District Attorney of three former government workers who are alleged to have solicited bribes with an undercover FBI agent for Mayor Lee’s campaign contributions. The District Attorney’s investigation is ongoing into political corruption.

The mayor has denied any wrongdoing and in a statement denounced the alleged wrongdoing.

“The mayor said that he would not tolerate any type of pay-­to-­play type situations that most people believe are really prevalent throughout the town,” Keane said. “If that is the case, then Mr. Mayor you should pass our fully funded budget and give us the tools to address the kinds of corruption, pay-to-play that you say should not take place here.”

Of the proposed increase, about $274,000 would go toward the creation of a unit that “provides broad, timely, and understandable guidance on the laws and their practical application; conducts regular, robust policy analysis and evaluation; and identifies and develops workable and enforceable approaches to emerging policy issues.”

Another large portion of the increase, $390,522, is to increase electronic filing of disclosure forms and to improve the online use of the filing system for the public to review the information.

City departments must submit a proposed budget to the mayor by Feb. 22. The commission voted unanimously to submit the increased budget.

LeeAnn PelhamPoliticsSan Francisco’s Ethics Commission

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