Supervisor Malia Cohen and Supervisor David Campos.

Supervisor Malia Cohen and Supervisor David Campos.

Public advocate proposal talks erupt in name-calling by supervisors

A sign political tensions have reached fever pitch at City Hall, Supervisor David Campos on Wednesday accused two board colleagues of committing a “corrupt act” by hijacking his proposal to create an elected public advocate in San Francisco.

As the deadline approaches to place the public advocate charter amendment on the November ballot, political tensions boiled over during Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors Rules Committee hearing. The public advocate position, modeled after similar positions in other cities like New York, would not only function as a watchdog, but also dilute the powers of the mayor.

Campos scaled back his proposal in an effort to shore up support for the at least six votes he would need from the Board of Supervisors to place the measure on the ballot.

But Supervisor Malia Cohen — with the support of Supervisor Katy Tang, who chairs the three member-committee — subsequently introduced more amendments, scaling back the powers of the proposed position even further – essentially hijacking Campos’ measure.

In response, Campos described the procedural move as “[a] corrupt act by someone who is clearly corrupted.”

A term limit of two consecutive terms and stripping the position of appointment powers of two oversight bodies – Office of Citizen Complaints and Office of Labor Standards Enforcement — were among Cohen’s amendments. Another amendment would doom Campos’ ability to run for the office of public advocate himself in the near future, because it would ban any person who has served in a local elected office in the last four years from serving as public advocate.

Supervisor Eric Mar, who is Campos’ only progressive ally on committee, opposed the amendments in a 2-1 vote.

Campos blasted Cohen, calling it legislative trickery to block the version of his measure from being voted on by the full board. He continued, “This is again an effort by Malia Cohen to protect the power of [Mayor] Ed Lee.”

Tang refuted the assertion she was trying to block the measure, and said she was only amending it to address “legitimate concerns.”

After the hearing, Campos told the San Francisco Examiner by “corrupt” he meant that “it’s trying to protect the status quo and to do so in an underhanded way.” He suggested Cohen was pressured by the Mayor’s Office to kill the measure.

Cohen, however, told the San Francisco Examiner after the hearing she “never” had a conversation with the Mayor’s Office about the measure.

“I’m insulted you’re even asking the question,” Cohen said.

As for Campos’ “corrupt act” comment,” Cohen said that “Campos is being a crybaby and reduced himself to name calling much like Donald Trump” does when the Republican presidential hopeful doesn’t get his way.

Even with her amendments, Cohen said she isn’t on board with the public advocate measure, noting there is still room for improvement.

Campos has some procedural recourse. He will likely introduce a motion next week at the full board to try and pull his version from out of the Rules Committee.

Among the amendments Campos made to his measure Wednesday were eliminating the provision that would place both the Office of Citizen Complaints, which investigates police misconduct, and the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, which investigates workforce violations, under the authority of the public advocate.

But Campos’ measure would still take the appointment power of those two agencies’ directors away from the mayor and grant it to the public advocate.

Campos also eliminated from his proposal the funding set-aside provision that would have required The City to pay for the public advocate office annually using a set formula. Instead, the measure recommends a staffing level of 22, which includes one constituency service staff member per each supervisorial district and one investigator per supervisorial district.

Tang praised Campos for eliminating the set-aside, a budgeting provision she opposes in general. But Tang, who argues the position may only duplicate existing government functions, said of the recommended staffing, “To me that sounds a lot like our Board of Supervisors’ offices.”Board of SupervisorsCity HallDavid CamposMalia CohenPoliticsPublic AdvocateSan Francisco

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