The San Francisco Police union’s lead political consultant illegally acted as a lobbyist when he emailed a group of legislators in an effort to defeat a resolution on police brutality last December, according to an Ethics Commission filing.
Gary Delagnes, formerly the Police Association’s head and sometime spokesman, was fined $5,500 in a settlement for failing to register as a lobbyist and for failing to file disclosure reports required by law in connection with emails sent last December.
At the time he was a paid political consultant for the union. City law defines a lobbyist as anyone who makes one or more contacts with elected officials on behalf of their employer.
Still, Delagnes’ fine pales in comparison to one paid in 2014 when former supervisor Michael Yaki was fined $75,000 for similar illegal lobbying.
Delagnes says he registered as a lobbyists about two weeks ago, but added that it has not been decided if he will pay the fine or if it will come out of POA funds.
The emails — made public by a San Francisco Examiner story which sparked the investigation — showed Delagnes and the union strong-arming Supervisor Malia Cohen. Delagnes wanted her to back away from supporting John Avalos’ resolution, which she voted against.
Cohen has since changed her tune when it comes to the POA. At a July Democratic Party meeting she cast aspersion on the POA.
As for the fine, she says it should stand as an example.
”Those who don’t follow the law should be held responsible,” said Cohen. “The public deserves the right to know when interactions to influence legislative matters at the Board of Supervisors occur. This decision reaffirms how seriously The City takes this responsibility. I do not take this responsibility lightly and I hope this decision serves as a strong signal for anyone who chooses to ignore the lobbying ordinance.”
Delagnes says he never registered because he didn’t think his actions qualified as lobbying. He simply emailed Cohen and copied several other supervisors, he said.
“I didn’t think I was a lobbyist,” he said.
But Ethics Commission filings, and Examiner reporting, show he contacted numerous supervisors on Dec. 9 and 10, which make him a lobbyist.
Delagnes’ lobbying activity first came to light in February of 2015 when the Examiner published a story on the matter after obtaining copies of the emails.
Delagnes was contacted by two Ethics Commission employees about the issue this summer, he said. They said they thought he’d been lobbying and wanted to see his emails. He obliged. In the end, they only found one instance of him contacting officials on a political matter in a month’s time — the Cohen email.
After negotiating over the last several months over the matter, he and the commission came to an agreement: pay a fine and register as a lobbyist.
The fine, if the commission went by the letter of the law, which includes late fees, would have been about $27,000, according to filings.
In 2015 there have only been 23 ethics complaints. Six were dismissed, three were found to have no fault and the rest, including Delagnes’, were settled.
The resolution opposed by the union, which supported the Black Lives Matter movement, supported protests locally and nationwide opposing police brutality that were sparked last year by the lack of grand jury indicts against the Missouri and New York officers responsible for killing two unarmed black men.
The POA called the resolution an incitement to violence because it included language pointing out that police — including those in San Francisco — have problems dealing with communities of color. Still, it praised the SFPD for its strides in community policing.
Joshua Sabatini contributed to this story.
Read more criminal justice news on the Crime Ink page in print. Follow us on Twitter: @sfcrimeinkBlack Lives MatterCrimeGary Delagnesillegal lobbyingJohn AvaloslobbyistMalia CohenpoliceSan Francisco Policesan Franciso politicsSFPOA