SFUSD board to review policy after Fewer OK’d for soliciting donations

The San Francisco Board of Education could vote today to prohibit its members from asking school district workers for political contributions.

The policy review comes just days after Ethics Commission staff informally cleared Sandra Lee Fewer, a school board member, of wrongdoing for soliciting donations from district employees in her campaign for city supervisor.

Fewer, a candidate for District 1 supervisor, said Monday that she recalled asking two employees with the San Francisco Unified School District to attend an April 21 fundraiser.

“I recall soliciting donations from a few individuals, but these are individuals that have supported me in the past,” Fewer said.

City officers and employees cannot solicit political contributions from other employees or officers under local campaign law. As a school board member, Fewer contends that she is not an employee of The City but of the state and therefore the law does not apply to her.

“My staff and I have not discussed whether or not to return the money,” Fewer said of the few donations she solicited. “Quite frankly, we don’t think that we have done anything wrong.”

Twenty-two SFUSD employees donated more than $3,500 to her campaign on the day of the fundraiser, according to campaign contribution filings. That includes Interim Superintendent Myong Leigh, who was a deputy superintendent at the time.

“I was pleased to support Commissioner Fewer by attending her dinner in April,” Leigh said in an email. “I did so at her invitation, but I did not feel pressured in any way to attend.”

In her defense, Fewer cited a letter dated last Friday from Jessica Blome, a deputy director of Enforcement and Legal Affairs with the Ethics Commission, who also said that the section of city law does not apply to school board members.

Based on the letter, school board President Matt Haney said the city campaign law would only apply to board members if — as proposed — they revised their own policy to make that the case.

“This would change our policy to put us under the city policy, but in the past as the Ethics Commission made clear school board members do not fall under the policy,” Haney said.

Haney, who is up for re-election, has also received donations from school district workers but said he has not solicited them.

“It will be a positive thing for us to have clarity on our own conflict-of-interest policy and update it, but I don’t think that Commissioner Fewer did anything that violated either our policy or the city policy,” Haney said.

Leigh proposed the changes and said the resolution “is part of a comprehensive update of board policies and is not specifically related to any individual commissioner’s campaign activities.”

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