New Ethics Commission leader signals more proactive body

Beginning in January, San Francisco’s Ethics Commission will come under new leadership.

From a pool of 32 applicants, the commission selected LeeAnn Pelham, former Los Angeles Ethics Commission executive director, to take over the post vacated by retired John St. Croix.

Ethics Commission Chair Paul Renne said when making the announcement last week Pelham was selected “because of her proven track record as an effective independent nonpartisan leader as manager of the L.A. Ethics Commission and her obvious energy, enthusiasm and passion for the work of ensuring good governance.”

He added, “We believe that makes her the right choice for this commission at this time.”

St. Croix, who held the post for 11 years, announced his retirement in April. His tenure attracted criticism by some who said the director was lax in enforcement and inactive in proposing regulations to close loopholes.

“I am very aware that this body and San Francisco voters have continued to express a very strong interest in the goals that the Ethics Commission was established by voters here in the city and county to pursue,” Pelham said, when addressing the commission last week.

Pelham worked for 19 years with the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, serving as a staffer and then between 2001 to 2011 as the executive director. Pelham most recently served as director of ethics and corporate governance for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, between from 2013 to July 2015.

Pelham addressed three specific areas she would focus on when assuming her post on Jan. 4. Those areas included aligning the department’s resources to “better deliver” on the commission’s voter-mandate, to ensure “rules are applied consistently and with appropriate transparency,” and “to both initiate and shape public policy.”

In November, voters approved of Proposition C, which was placed on the ballot by the Ethics Commission, to increase disclosure of lobbyist transparency. It was a rarely used method by the commission to place a measure on the ballot on its own accord, but signaled a new direction to become more proactive.

Pelham is expected to lead with a similar spirit.

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