Sheriff’s deputies cleared to provide ballot security

The Sheriff’s Department will be allowed to provide security for the November election, the Ethics Commission decided Thursday evening.

The same charter amendment that voters approved in November 2002 that put the Sheriff’s Department in charge of Election Day security included a provision that if a measure is on a ballot that would have a “material financial” impact on the department’s staff then The City should come up with a different security plan.

The Ethics Commission, in a 5-0 vote, found that Proposition B, the politically charged pension and health benefits measure, would not have a “material financial” impact on Sheriff’s Department personnel.

“Staff believes that the best interpretation of [the charter section] would allow the Sheriff and the Sheriff’s employees to assist in the election when there is a measure on the ballot that will affect all City employees without singling out the Sheriff’s Department or another small class of employees,” Ethics Commission Director John St. Croix said in a report to commissioners.

Sheriff Michael Hennessey had requested the review since the ballot measure would force city workers to pay more into their health and pension benefits if passed. For the Sheriff’s Department, its workers only would be impacted by the health benefit provision.

Commissioners said the financial impact on the employees was “uncertain,” as a number of unknown factors would determine the amount by which their pay could be decreased.

Also, they said it wasn’t exactly clear what “material” means.

“You are trying to decide, is this enough to essentially corrupt uniformed people in the Sheriff’s Office,” St. Croix said.

“It’s hard to put a dollar to it. The voters didn’t give us a bright line for what’s material,” commission Chair Jamienne Studley said.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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