Newsom: S.F.’s rules unclear

Mayor Gavin Newsom said the investigations into embattled Supervisor Ed Jew’s residency and a $40,000 cash payment Jew said he accepted on behalf of a third party have prompted him to ask the city attorney to investigate changes in the law.

“I think the laws need to be clear on both the residency and the issue of receiving cash,” Newsom said at a press conference Thursday, held in Chinatown for the Asian media.

Jew, the District 4 supervisor, faces legal battles with both the city attorney and the district attorney, as both offices charge Jew with lying about where he lived in order to serve on the Board of Supervisors. Jew is also under investigation by the FBI over a $40,000 payment from a local business to help with permit problems.

A hearing date for the district attorney’s case — which charges Jew with nine felony counts of perjury and other crimes related to the matter of his residency — is scheduled for July 27.

Newsom said he’s hoping to create two separate pieces of legislation: one to strengthen the definition of residency, and another to make it illegal for elected officials to accept cash payments on behalf of third parties. The city attorney is researching legal options and no legislation has been drafted. The mayor said he is merely “advancing ideas.”

Any such laws would not be applicable to The City’s cases against Ed Jew. Since the laws would most likely require an amendment to the City Charter, they would have to go to the ballot, according to the City Attorney’s Office. The deadline for the mayor to put something on the November ballot has passed, so it would have to go onthe February 2008 ballot at the earliest.

A law prohibiting elected officials from accepting money on behalf of third parties would strengthen the integrity of San Francisco’s political system, said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause, a campaign finance watchdog organization.

“There’s a lot of cases at local and state levels where contractor donations can be funneled to elected officials and result in a crisis of integrity of the government,” she said.

Newsom said that while the concerns about whether Jew’s residency is at the Sunset house he says he spends time in or in Burlingame, where his wife and children live, are important, “more signficant” is the issue of the cash.

The District 4 supervisor told reporters that he accepted the $40,000 on behalf of a contractor and had kept half for a local park project.

“Is it illegal? It appears to be, but I don’t know if it is,” Newsom said. “But if I accepted $40,000 in cash, I wouldn’t be sitting here. It’s as simple as that.”

Mayor would opt for Chinese stand-in

Mayor Gavin Newsom told members of the Asian media in Chinatown on Thursday that if he had to replace District 4 Supervisor Ed Jew, he would do it with another person who was Chinese-American.

Under city law, the mayor has the sole authority to appoint new members of the Board of Supervisors when one leaves office for any reason. Newsom also has the authority to remove Ed Jew for “official misconduct,” a power he says he’s not certain he’ll use.

Newsom told the media group that he thought it was important that the Board of Supervisors reflected The City’s ethnic diversity and that it would be “unjust” not to replace Jew with another Chinese-American representative.

“I think it’s very unfortunate that there’s only one Chinese member on the Board of Supervisors,” said Newsom, who added that “under no circumstance” could he imagine a scenario in which the board would lack that representation.

“Does that answer your question?” Newsom asked the group.

beslinger@examiner.com


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