Lobbyists required to register with county

Those who lobby supervisors and their aides on county business will be subject to increased public scrutiny regarding what issues they’re lobbying on and who they work for after supervisors approved on Tuesday an ordinance requiring lobbyists to register with the county.

Current law requires no disclosure of lobbying efforts, but the new ordinance — which takes effect Jan. 1, 2008 — will shed light on any back-door maneuverings going on outside the public’s view, according to Supervisor Rich Gordon, who brought the proposal forward and has spent more than a year fighting for a higher degree of openness around lobbying and government ethics.

The plan requires those who lobby supervisors or their aides to pay an annual $100 registration fee and file biannual disclosure forms detailing lobbying activities, who they work for, what issue they are lobbying on, how much they are paid, gifts given and a description of lobbying activity.

“I’m pleased that we were able to craft something that achieved unanimous support,” said Gordon. “It shows that this board is committed to a transparent, public process.”

While not suggesting there have been ethical lapses in the past, passing such a law puts San Mateo County on par with other

jurisdictions such as San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Clara and Los Angeles counties, Gordon said.

“There is such distrust of government these days, that I think this is another way to have leadership in San Mateo County say ‘There is nothing hidden here,’” Gordon said.

Failing to register as a lobbyist or filing false disclosure information could be punishable by a maximum fine of $500 and six months in jail, Assistant County Counsel Michael Murphy said.

Government agencies, nonprofits and the media are not considered lobbyists under the law, Murphy said.

“I feel like we’ve now put in place the missing piece and that we have a solid ethics package for the citizens of this county,” Gordon said.

New lobbyist requirements

Lobbyists must pay $100 a year to register.

Biannual reports submitted by lobbyists must include:

» Name of lobbyist’s business or employer.

» List of clients for whom the lobbyist works.

» Description of issue lobbied on.

» Summary of lobbying activity.

» Amount of compensation, gifts.

Disclosure forms must be filed within 15 days of the required dates: June 30 and Dec. 31.

Registration, reports and forms must be filed with County Counsel’s Office.

– Source: San Mateo County Counsel’s Office

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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