Ethics Commissioner Quentin Kopp has had enough.
He’s resigning the Ethics Commission in protest of its inability to pass needed reforms and decrying the commission’s allegedly lengthy backlog of complaints.
Kopp is the second Ethics Commissioner to resign recently in the face of obstinance from the rest of the commission, following in the footsteps of then-chair Peter Keane, who resigned in protest last year.
“I find the investigative practices of Ethics Commission staff unsatisfactory,” Kopp said in his resignation letter, arguing that the time it takes to address a complaint by citizens simply takes too long.
Larry Bush, the former head of Friends of Ethics, and a strident San Francisco ethics reformer in his own right, also left his group in frustration over Ethics’ performance last year. The Ethics Commission is tasked with keeping our elected officials, lobbyists and other officials accountable, fining and otherwise punishing them when they fail to disclose their donors to voters, and allocate funds for campaign public financing.
Kopp was first appointed to the Ethics Commission in 2016 and was seen as a high-profile appointment at the time due to his lengthy career as a San Francisco supervisor, judge and state senator.
He is only two and a half years into a six-year term on the commission.
Ethics Commission Chair Daina Chiu released a statement following Kopp’s resignation. Chiu said she is “saddened and disappointed” and thanked him for his service.
“I am proud of the great work the Commission and staff have done and are continuing to do to deepen the effectiveness of our reform laws in the City,” she said. “The Commission’s mandate is vital and demands a deliberative body that represents a variety of viewpoints.”
Keane, the former chair of the Ethics Commission, walked out of an Ethics Commission meeting one year ago after the commission voted against placing the two-years-in-the-making Anti-Corruption and Accountability Ordinance on the June ballot, the San Francisco Examiner previously reported.
Now I was reporting on this as the measure wound its way through ethics and to the board, and I called out Kopp in this column for playing some part in delaying the measure’s implementation. It seems he’s been frustrated by those on all sides.
Ultimately, parts of that ordinance were passed by the commission, while other parts of the ordinance were placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors, who carried the torch for the stymied Ethics Commission.
“Kopp concluded that the current status at Ethics is unlikely to lead to the reforms demanded by voters or which are taking place elsewhere such as Los Angeles,” said Larry Bush, in a statement.
If passed by voters in November this year, the measure would require political ads on TV, online, mailers or print to display their top five true donors of more than $5,000 — emphasis on the word “true.” This is a big deal in local elections, as many shady interests behind the scenes (cough: Ron Conway) donate to independent expenditure committees and Super PACs in a shell game of campaign war chests to hide the true donors from disclosure to the public.
In his resignation letter, Kopp said he would support the November ballot measure, but “I have lost confidence in the ability of the Ethics Commission and its staff to achieve the purposes represented to voters and residents two decades ago for its establishment.”
“I can better continue to serve San Francisco in other ways,” he wrote.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at Facebook.com/FitztheReporter.