Gascon to pay $4K fine for illegal campaign contributions

District Attorney George Gascon has agreed to pay a $4,000 fine for illegally soliciting contributions from city employees during a fundraiser for his campaign, the Ethics Commission announced Monday night.

Two of Gascon’s high-ranking staff, chief of staff Cristine Soto DeBerry and Assistant District Attorney Michael Swart, have also agreed to pay fines for the same incident, at $1,400 apiece.

Ethics Commission Chair Paul Renne announced the fines Monday night following a closed session during which the commission voted to accept the stipulations.

All three said they were unaware of the restriction in part because they were approached for political donations by other city employees in the past, Renne said. But he noted that Gascon “had certainly attended ethics training, which contained training concerning that specific prohibition.”

The ethics law states there is a prohibition on “soliciting political contributions from other city officers or employees.”

Renne added, “Hopefully this disposition of these will be a message to all city employees concerning the ban.”

Farrell fine

The commission also in closed session Monday discussed a fine imposed on Supervisor Mark Farrell from an incident in 2010, which has prompted Farrell to sue in an attempt to have the fine dismissed.

The commission had previously fined Farrell $191,000 for campaign violations that occurred during his 2010 run for the District 2 seat on the Board of Supervisors.

Farrell is contesting the fine and filed a lawsuit earlier this month in San Francisco Superior Court to have it thrown out.

But the Ethics Commission is not backing down. “The commission has instructed the City Attorney and the Treasurer’s Office to rigorously respond to the complaint that was filed by Mr. Farrell and to file a cross-complaint seeking to recover the monies that were the subject matter of the forfeiture letter,” Renne said, publically disclosing what occurred during the closed session.

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