Police Board Says No to Supes Hearing

“This is more of the case by them wanting to go dark. The [Police Commission] President said they wanted to pick the chief before they meet with us,” Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi told CitiReport after being told that the Police Commission will not show up at a joint Police Commission-Board Public Safety Committee meeting set for this Wednesday.

The Commission’s vote shuts the door on cooperation between Mayor Ed Lee’s administration and the Board of Supervisors at the same time that an era of new civility is being proclaimed. Underscoring the politics of the decision, CitiReport sources indicate that the Commission made its decision on a 4-3 vote, with the mayor’s appointees lining up to outvote the three Board appointees to the Commission.

The Commission President’s claim that the decision was reached at its meeting last week also raised questions since the Commission’s agenda did not publicly notice a discussion or vote on the upcoming Board-Commission meeting. Mirkarimi, the chair of the Board’s Public Safety Committee, told CitiReport that the two bodies have held joint meetings several times in the past. The Wednesday meeting is to discuss community policing strategies and to hear an update on the police chief selection process.

“It’s extremely bad form,” Mirkarimi told CitiReport, “one to do it without notice to the public and two, not to inform us in advance that this is what was on their mind. It also reinforces the concerns I expressed earlier that the chief’s selection process is not being administered in the way that was signaled by the commission itself with transparency.”

Mirkarimi earlier had named a number of senior police captains who were notified that they would not be given an interview as part of the selection process. At the same time as those notifications went out, the Police Commission was holding public meetings stating it was seeking community input on the criteria for a new police chief.

That criticism surfaced in news reports, initially in CitiReport but also in the San Francisco Examiner and SFAppeal.com. The San Francisco Chronicle, which has run two news stories and two columns by C.W. Nevius, has either not told readers of the brewing controversy or suggested that complaints were not being welcomed by the Police Commission and would be harmful to the process.

Among those complaining that they had not been heard before the Commission began eliminating applicants widely regarded as highly qualified were representatives of the Department’s minority and women’s officers, including the Women’s Officers Network. The Commission did meet in advance with the San Francisco Police Officers Association.

One explanation for the preferential treatment for the SFPOA might be found in their political and financial clout in San Francisco politics.

Documents obtained by CitiReport show that the San Francisco Police Officers Association has a budget of over $3.2 million for the current year, with a total of $250,000 earmarked for political contributions and campaigns with an additional $225,000 public relations. Among those who were retained for public relations is Alex Tourk, a high profile former member of the Newsom Administration.

No other organization, including other police officer groups, concerned with police issues can come close to that financial clout.

The Police Commission has scheduled a closed door session on nominations for police chief on Tuesday, March 9 and again on Saturday, March 12. The Commission has indicated its intention to forward names to Mayor Lee by March 16.


HUD Roundtable on LGBT Bias

Little known fact: about one in ten San Francisco households lives in a home that receives HUD assistance — either through public housing, assisted housing, Section 8 or other programs. Even more live in homes with FHA insured mortgages. Of course, there is also housing for the homeless, economic development programs like Community Development Block Grants and Enterprise Communities, and more.

Federal law does not recognize sexual orientation or gender identity as a protected civil rights category, but HUD has determined that it can require nondiscrimination in its programs.

The decision didn’t come easy. In 2009, HUD’s own local General Counsel denounced an effort to advertise that same-sex couples could qualify for an FHA-insured homeowner loan, calling it “wishful thinking” and the head of the local office brought up the staff member making the proposal (disclaimer: that would be me, Larry Bush) on charges of insubordination for making the proposal. Eventually those with more sense spoke up (but not before the email exchanges denouncing the effort at nondiscrimination were shared at the White House with a meeting with LGBT officials), and within HUD itself, Assistant Secretary Trasvina undertook a national review to show that a need existed for a formal nondiscrimination policy.

Among those who provided valuable input was the Lesbian Rights Project, with case examples from their work, and the city’s Human Rights Commission, that also provided data on complaints made to that group.

Now Trasvina, who many in San Francisco will remember was a member of the District Elections Task Force that redrew lines for supervisors after the 2000 census, will be in San Francisco to conduct a roundtable to get more input on the proposed new HUD anti-bias rules.

San Francisco is a great place for input, in part because people here are more aware of the issues and in part because of the people who have moved here after facing discrimination elsewhere.

The difference means allowing same sex couples to be housed together in senior HUD housing, to recognize trans individuals in HUD programs, and to recognize the needs of LGBT homeless youth to have safe and secure housing free from harassment.

It’s all good…and it matters that people participate in this process.


HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Urban Development John Trasvina will hold an LGBT Roundtrable Discussion on the proposed rule on Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs at San Francisco City Hall on Wednesday, March 9 at 2:30-4 p.m.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity

John Trasviña, Assistant Secretary for
Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
invites you to the
LGBT Roundtable Discussion on the Proposed Rule on
Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
2:30 P.M. – 4:00 P.M.
San Francisco City Hall, Room 408
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, California

When we want your opinion…

When we want your opinion, we’ll tell you what it is…Apparently that is the way the San Francisco Police Commission is handling its process for selecting a new police chief. While community groups were invited to give input on the selection criteria, and minority and women police groups are set for a meeting on Monday, February 28, the Police Commission already has sent out dozens of letters rejecting applicants for the chief’s job.

And from what CitiReport has heard, the list no longer has any minorities or women among the names to be considered for forwarding to Mayor Ed Lee.

“It just feels like a railroad job,” Women’s Officers Network head Belinda Kerr told CitiReport. “With all these talks of transparency, all they did was ignore that and do what they wanted to.”

The rejection letters reportedly went out before the Commission heard from community members at meetings at the Southeast Community Center and the LGBT Community Center. The only community group to be heard were those who gathered at the Irish Community Center on the west side and, of course, the Police Officers Association.

Among those rumored to have received a “thanks but no thanks” rejection is Jim Molinari, the head of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s state office, a retired SFPD police captain and a U.S. Marshall in San Francisco appointed by President Clinton. Molinari was rumored to be at the top of the list of candidates with the backing of the minority police officer groups such as the Pride Alliance, Officers for Justice, Asian Police Officers, Latino Police Officers and the Women Officers Network.

Other applicants told they did not make the list to be interviewed include some of the most senior captains in the Department widely recognized for accomplishments in improving community safety.

CitiReport sources indicate that the Commission is being driven by the mayor’s four appointees, leaving the three appointees from the Board of Supervisors with little say in the matter.

The selection process invited applications for the chief’s position on January 24, with a date of March 15 set for three names to be forwarded to Mayor Lee. The past three police chiefs – Fred Lau, Heather Fong and George Gascon – all were minorities.

The charge that the police chief selection is rigged to favor a candidate handpicked by the Police Officers Association and the old boy’s network comes on the heels of a Civil Service Commission hearing that the recent police captain test was influenced by tutoring that advantaged some candidates over others. The Civil Service Commission upheld the test results in a meeting this week, but noted that it did not reach a conclusion on whether Captain David Lazar tutored hopeful applicants and then wrote the questions that appeared on the test. According to the San Francisco Examiner account, Lazar declined comment citing confidentiality requirements.


The Line Forms Here…The reports are in on lobbyists’ contacts with San Francisco City officials, and you have to wonder if some of them ever had time to meet with the people who actually elected them. Board of Supes Prez David Chiu, by CitiReport’s count, reportedly met 188 times with lobbyists last year – and that’s just the officially registered lobbyists, not self-important manipulators like Rose Pak or Willie Brown, both of whom managed to fatten their wallets by dint of influence peddling.

How seriously can we take these lobbyist contact reports at the Ethics Commission web site? The February 15 reports, covering the month of January, reveal that lobbyists did not report a single contact with the mayor’s office, the board of supervisors, the city attorney or anyone else regarding the appointment of an interim mayor. Believe it if you can. We can’t.

Swag…City officials have to report the gifts they received when they file their Statement of Economic Interests, which they do when leaving office, assuming office or when annual reports are due. The cap last year was about $420 dollars total from any one source, which is intended to keep the swag to reasonable levels. Some gifts don’t have to be reported at all if they are “re-gifted” within 30 days, which makes for a nice gesture to hard-working staff when you suddenly find yourself with five fondue pots.

Departed former mayor Gavin Newsom reports pages of received gifts, more than all the supervisors combined, so he takes the Swag Grand Prize for 2010. We’re not talking Starbucks coffee gift cards here. Among those giving Hizzoner swag was Nicola Bulgari, as well as the head of Tiffany’s here in town. And then in a nice bit of financial jiu-jitsu, Newsom received free tickets to the San Francisco Opera Gala, the San Francisco Symphony Grand Opening, and various other entertainment venues such as Opening Day at the San Francisco Giants. Nevermind that those groups all received either city funding or city permits from Hizzoner during the same period. After all, it’s kind of a family thing.

As one might guess, there is usually an outlier of some kind among the lists of gift-givers. A Luis Vuitton pen valued at $395 was given to Newsom on November 10 after he safely won election as Lieutenant Governor, from one Dmitry Roboloviev. Who dat? If Newsom has correctly identified the source, that would be the man listed as the sixth richest man in Russia, who plunked down $100 million cash to buy Donald Trump’s Palm Beach estate, another $100 million for his yacht, plus a DC319, plus beginning work on a replica of Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon on the shores of Lake Geneva, Switzerland. He also was known to have been housed in a Russian jail for 11 months facing a charge of murdering his business partner back in 1996, although the charges were dropped because of a lack of evidence.

CitiReport would have checked Newsom’s report against the one he had to file when he assumed office as Lt. Governor, but the FPPC web site where that data is posted still doesn’t show a report from the Scion of Sacramento.

And, in a small amendment, Mayor Ed Lee has noted that last year he did receive a bottle of win valued at $49.99 from then-mayor Newsom.

A Decoder Ring in Every Box…Ethics Executive Director John St. Croix tells CitiReport that we failed to use our Decoder Ring to decipher the secret key on whether Ethics had scrubbed mention of former District Attorney Kamala Harris’s missed deadline for her leaving office filing. The Ethics Commission list of Statements of Economic Interests lists only those that have been filed. There is a small box that a citizen can check that states “include Non-Filers in Search.” Apparently “Non-Filers” is the code phrase to pull up folks who didn’t file but were supposed to. Harris, by the way, eventually did file and her report can be seen on CitiReport’s “In-Out” file drawer.

Merely Rumors


That’s the apparent view over at the San Francisco Ethics Commission, which first posted, then scrubbed, the public record that outgoing District Attorney Kamala Harris failed to meet the deadline for filing her Statement of Economic Interest as she left office. One day the list of officials who had filed – or, in the case of Harris, had passed the deadline – was posted on the Ethics internet site, and days later she was gone, evaporated, now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t.

Harris had 30 days after leaving office to file the statement, a date that passed on February 3. Not to worry. Failure to file never gets a rebuke from San Francisco officials. Instead complaints on that score go to Sacramento, where Harris now serves as Attorney General.


New District Attorney George Gascon was quick to file both his report upon leaving his post as Police Chief and assuming new duties as the District Attorney. That is to say, he was quick to file a form stating he had nothing to file. Really? Seriously? Who was that woman I saw you with? Officials like Gascon are required to file any economic interests that benefits them, including holdings and income from a spouse. Ms. Gascon, better known as Fabiola Kramsky, is a morning anchor and producer on Univision’s Al Despertar as of January, and prior to that was available for voice-overs and other media work. But not a whisper in Gascon’s Statement of Economic Interest.  Just sayin’.


The prize goes to, who else, Willie Lewis Brown, Jr. for his filing with the Internal Revenue Service for the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Institute on Policy and Politics. Among the questions asked on the IRS 990 form is whether the nonprofit has a written Conflict of Interest policy. Brown’s Institute dutifully reports that it does have such a policy. Then come two follow-up questions from the IRS: “Are officers, directors or trustees and key employees required to disclose annually interests that could give rise to conflicts?” and “Does the organization regularly and consistently monitor and enforce compliance with the policy?” The answer to those questions would be “No.” And, just to be completely on the safe side, the Institute answers No to the question “Does the organization have a written Whistleblower policy” and No to the question “Does the organization have a written document and retention policy.”  It’s the Willie Brown version of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.


And if so, whose dog is it? Most accounts of the Board battle and now lawsuit over the appointment of Richard Johns to the city’s Historical Preservation Commission suggest that there is nothing more at stake than there is in a pillow fight.  Turns out that there is quite a bit at stake, and some major players are involved. Of course, you knew that once you realized that Johns is a good friend of former mayor (and Chronicle columnist) Willie Brown, Jr. Last year, registered lobbyists contacted the Historical Preservation Commission at least thirty times, including over the SOMA survey plan and the potential uses for the shuttered Mirant Power Plant. And, oh yes, in a decision that rests in part on the Commission, the San Francisco Chronicle hired a lobbyist to seek a reduction in taxes on its Fifth and Mission Street offices, citing the Mills Act provision that can cut property taxes by 40 to 60 percent when preservation efforts are made on buildings that then rent space – as does the Chronicle. The lobbying was to Phil Ting, but the requirement for the tax break is a designation by the Historical Preservation Commission that the building qualifies. That makes Mr. Johns “Johnny on the Spot.”


Can it buy a little hate? One wonders, looking through the list of donors to former mayor Gavin Newsom’s 2008 Swearing-In Committee. Among the top donors was Pacific Gas and Electric, with $15,000 on January 5, 2008. That would be the same day the San Francisco Chronicle reported that PUC Director Susan Leal will be replaced by Ed Harrington, who continues to serve as PUC Director. An unsourced comment by a PUC commissioner later pointed the finger at Leal’s stance on PG&E, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, stating “she pushed too hard for the city to get deeper into the business of generating and transmitting its own electricity, while commissioners had a different agenda.” PG&E’s $15,000 check was solicited by Newsom himself, according to records at the Ethics Commission. In all, Newsom reported asking specific donors for $290,700 in contributions. Included are a number of businesses with issues before the city such as Forest City, BOMA, the Committee on JOBS, ParkMerced, the San Francisco Giants, Yerba Buena Commons and a number of Building Trades unions. Under city law, those seeking contract or actions by city officials are prohibited from donating to political campaigns. During Newsom’s seven years as mayor, he tapped donors to the tune of $1.5 million for his 2004 swearing-in committee, Project Homeless Connect, Sunday Streets, UN Day and other Newsom projects.  Not, one should note, that a quo inevitably follows the quid. In December 2010, for example, BOMA met twice with Newsom to urge him to make the mayor’s appointments to the upcoming Redistricting Commission that will redraw lines for the 2012 supervisors’ seats. Newsom did not follow through.

Merely Rumors


It wasn’t Gary Delagnes in the first round of voting by members of the Police Officers Association ballot for President and Executive officers. Result: run-off. Prediction: Bad News for a George Gascon endorsement in November’s DA election. Watch: the run-off results for Sergeant at Arms, where Joe Valdez stands a pretty fair chance of unseating the incumbent member of Delagnes’ team, Chris Breen. The vote is ongoing, with final ballots due by Sunday, January 30. Steve Landi is challenging Delagnes for the top spot, raising a charge that Delagnes has been too close to Gascon, as well as handling of internal budget priorities. The Sergeant at Arms position is less a second banana than an opportunity to open the POA to more voices. Whatever happens, the betting is that predictions were far off the mark that Gascon was popular with the rank and file officers and the POA will not give him their endorsement.


Tony Winnicker, ex-Mayor Newsom’s press secretary, may be moving on, so says Merely Rumors. Whatever his reasons, most observors don’t see Gavin Newsom’s combative style against the Board and the media as a comfortable fit for Interim Mayor Ed Lee. For Newsom, it was always “my way or the highway,” most recently evidenced the report that Newsom demanded that such former allies-turned-critics as Gary South not be invited to the recent political consultant autopsy of the last election. The event was sponsored by UC, and it was noted that Newsom is a new member of the UC Board of Regents able to wave a sword over future budget needs.


Not every politican takes to the microphone to trumpet their precedent-setting efforts. Assemblymember Tom Ammiano played a role in persuading the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to write new anti-bias policies for LGBT staff and customers, including housing for domestic partners in public and assisted housing. The workload fell to John Trasvina, a member of the Elections Task Force that drew up the San Francisco supervisor district lines last time and who now serves as Assistant Secretary of HUD for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. Trasvina shepherded the policy through HUD channels and the White House, with an assist in demonstrating the need from Lesbian Rights Project director Kate Kendell as well as the staff at San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission. Trasvina holds the post once held by Roberta Achtenberg, who now has been named by Obama to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which, despite its name, is blocked by congress from including sexual orientation.