Supe. Farrell may settle $191K ethics fine for $25K

Supervisor Mark Farrell may settle his $191,000 ethics fine for $25,000.

After a number of recent court filings and hearing postponements, the Ethics Commission was scheduled to vote Monday evening on a proposed settlement. But at the start of the meeting Commission Chair Paul Renne said deliberation on the possible settlement would be postponed until next month. No reason was given for the postponement.

Details of the settlement were not available for public review, but the meeting documents said the commission may vote on a proposed settlement “for a $25,000 payment by Supervisor Farrell and mutual release of legal claims.”

The possible settlement comes after Farrell sued April 29 to overturn the $191,000 fine the commission levied against him nearly two years ago for campaign activities related to his 2010 run for the District 2 seat on the Board of Supervisors.

Before Monday’s meeting, Larry Bush, head of the good-government group Friends of Ethics, sent a letter opposing any discussion by the commission on the settlement due to a lack of transparency.

“There is no information provided to the public regarding this payment, how it was recommended that the $191,000 forfeiture be lowered to $25,000, any stipulation by Supervisor Farrell stating his responsibilities …,” Bush wrote in the letter. “This item is not yet ripe for the Commission to discuss or for ‘possible action’ as the agenda indicated.”

The fine relates to campaign activity surrounding Farrell’s first election to political office in 2010 as the District 2 supervisor representing the Marina and Pacific Heights neighborhoods. He narrowly defeated progressive candidate Janet Reilly.

The defeat came as tens of thousands of “hit pieces” were sent out against Reilly in October 2010 by an independent political committee, Common Sense Voters, with which Farrell’s campaign manager, Chris Lee, illegally coordinated. While candidates are limited to receiving $500 contributions per person, there are no contribution limits for independent committees. Lee was fined $14,500 by the Fair Political Practices Commission for violating campaign laws, while that same state commission cleared Farrell of wrongdoing.

The City argues Farrell is still liable for the wrongdoing under local ethics law and should forfeit the $191,000.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s spokesperson Andrea Guzman declined to comment on the lawsuit or possible settlement.

Farrell is currently campaigning for his tent encampment removal ballot measure this November and is considered a potential mayoral candidate in 2019.

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