DA’s office makeover may have skirted the rules

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In a San Francisco Chronicle article published March 31, District Attorney George Gascon was quoted as saying he would not “even bother to defend” his decision to accept payments and in-kind donations for office furniture, valued at $26,445, from a roster of influential donors.

Although San Francisco’s top law enforcement official minimized the issue when questioned by reporters, it appears the DA may not have followed a number of state disclosure regulations when he accepted and reported the donation, which consists of a new glass-top desk and other trimmings to spruce up his executive office and the DA’s victim services lounge.

And the Guardian has learned that a formal complaint will be filed with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, a government accountability agency, alleging violations.

Charles Marsteller, a public ethics advocate and former co-coordinator of San Francisco Common Cause, sent the Guardian a copy of a complaint he intends to file with the FPPC, charging that Gascon either failed to properly disclose political contributions, or violated a gift limit imposed by state law.

"The District Attorney appears to be actively disregarding the applicable state law regarding the furniture payments," a statement attached to Marsteller's complaint notes.

Thirteen well-connected donors contributed payments toward the office set, with billionaire angel investor Ron Conway outspending the rest with a monetary contribution just shy of $10,000.

Other contributors, who gave between $1,000 and $2,000, included the Nibbi Brothers Contractors, who have worked on public housing renovations and other residential housing projects within San Francisco; Victor Makras, a member of the San Francisco Employees Retirement System board; Pius Lee, who previously served on the Police Commission; Charlotte Schultz, who holds the position of San Francisco’s Chief of Protocol, and Ryan Brooks, who formerly served on the city’s Public Utilities Commission.

The kind of disclosure form Gascon filed to report the new furniture, known as a behested payment report, is filed in cases where an elected official solicits a donation to a nonprofit entity or a government agency, and successfully secures a payment exceeding $5,000. In the case of governmental agencies, behested payments benefit a department as a whole, rather than any particular individual.

The fact that the donation was reported on a behested payment report, rather than a gift disclosure form, suggests that the new office furniture arrived only after Gascon requested it specifically, to benefit the DA office as a whole. But Marsteller's complaint charges: “Since the furniture payments at issue were made for the benefit of Gascon’s own use, they would not constitute a behested payment that must be reported on Form 803.”

The complaint goes on to state that payments for Gascon’s furniture should either be counted as "contributions" or "gifts," but not "behested payments."

According to a memo prepared by the San Francisco City Attorney in 2008, department heads must obtain Board approval before accepting donations made to public agencies.

“Generally, the Board of Supervisors must approve, by resolution, any gift with a value greater than $10,000 before a City agency or department accepts such a gift,” according to a 2008 memo drafted by San Francisco Deputy City Attorney Jon Givner. The total value of the new office furniture is $26,445, but the funding was divided up among numerous donors, with payments submitted over the course of several months. Conway contributed $9,999 – exactly one dollar under the $10,000 disclosure threshold.

However, Gascon did not solicit Board approval before accepting the furniture payments. Instead, he submitted a resolution and memo to the Clerk of the Board on March 19, to be introduced at the April 2 Board meeting, seeking retroactive approval.

"Apparently, Gascon decided that he should seek to sanitize any violation of San Francisco's Charter provision regarding acceptance of gifts by requesting retroactive approval," Marsteller’s complaint suggests.

Reached on his cell phone and asked to comment for this story, Gascon told the Guardian that he was unable to answer questions at that time because a family member was undergoing surgery.

The 2008 memo from the City Attorney also states that city agencies “must report gifts worth more than $100 on the department’s website.” Visitors to the DA’s website will find a section on the “About” page, titled “Supporters of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office,” which links to a PDF disclosing the donors’ names and individual gift amounts. However, a search on the Wayback Machine, a historical webpage snapshot service provided by the Internet Archive, shows that as of March 12, that disclosure section had not yet been created.

It’s possible that it was created as a result of questions raised. Larry Bush, who maintains a government watchdog news site called CitiReport, told the Guardian he began raising questions about the gift in March. Marsteller’s complaint is endorsed by Friends of Ethics, an ad hoc government accountability group that has also been scrutinizing the furniture payments.

Reached by phone, City Attorney spokesperson Matt Dorsey said he was unable to offer an official comment on the matter. “I wouldn’t be able to comment on, or even acknowledge whether, we gave advice or were asked for advice,” Dorsey told the Guardian.

Comments

A few pieces of furniture does not a conspiracy make.

Why not a searching piece on why SF's conviction rate is so low? Or why a wealthy place like SF has an unusual amount of petty crime?

But no, some dumb, speculative piece with no real proof of any improprietary. You can really do better than this.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 4:57 pm

Nice information about san francisco district attorney..,

Posted by glein on Jun. 25, 2013 @ 3:04 am
Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

What do you guys do? Read the Chronicle every day to see what you can try to make into a giant scandal?

Does that pay well? What do you tell your friends and family that you do for a living?

What is this one again? Some contributors bought a desk for the DA's office? Do the letters BFD mean anything to you? Are you upset about the improvements to the victim's lounge also?

Luckily we have one Ron Conway because he does more good for San Francisco in 1 day than the SFBG has ever done. Ever.

Posted by Troll on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 6:12 pm

Why do I get the idea that the Bay Guardian would not be making such a big deal about this if it was the Public Defenders Office receiving the furniture?

Posted by Kristin on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 6:21 pm

The Public Defender does not have prosecutorial discretion to give his billionaire political friends a pass in exchange for gifts like the District Attorney has to give Ed Lee a pass for breaking the law to get elected.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

And, for everyone's sake, don't tell us again about the kids in Chinatown who used a stencil. Those were kids using bad judgement getting a handful of votes that he didn't need anyway, and there is no indication that the voters involved were being led to vote against their wishes.

You said that Ed Lee broke the law to get elected...what did he do?

Posted by Troll on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 8:19 pm

Progress for all!

Posted by marcos on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 8:47 pm

Correct, In that case, everyone is innocent

Posted by George Casgone on Apr. 01, 2013 @ 8:27 pm

apparently the DA is not allowed to receive a donation of a piece of furniture without it being an outrageous scandal?

Perspective? Proportion? Balance? Objectivity?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2013 @ 6:05 am
Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 02, 2013 @ 7:06 am

in SFBG's reporting.

If Ross hadn't gotten a free cadenza for his office, I doubt that we would read about it first here.

Posted by anon on Apr. 02, 2013 @ 7:19 am

Interesting results when you Google the furniture donors:

http://blogs.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2011/08/da_to_investigate_constructi...

https://www.baycitizen.org/news/politics/money-behind-run-ed-run/

I believe the Run Ed Run investigation (involving Makras) was dumped by Gascon. Anyone know what ever happened with the Nibbi investigation?

By the way, if it was so easy for me to find this stuff, why wasn't it mentioned in this article or in the Chron?

Posted by Curious George on Apr. 02, 2013 @ 3:24 am

Okay. Just so you know...if powerful "downtown interests" wanted to influence the DA's office it would be in some secret, carefully hidden deal. They would buy one of Gascon's relatives a house in Arizona or something using surrogates.

They wouldn't buy a desk and put it on display in City Hall.

But I understand...you are Progressives...you need to make stuff up.

Posted by Troll on Apr. 02, 2013 @ 6:32 am

on, but then they project their own lack of guile by claiming it is done in an obvious, transparent manner.

Oxymoronic.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2013 @ 7:07 am

Where are all the lefties? They certainly don't hang at the cron or reddit. And the city is still full of them, otherwise we would have elected more centrist politicians. WTF?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2013 @ 7:47 am

Other than the ill-fated, self-destructing Ross, we haven't elected a progressive to a city-wide office since Agnos, and he lost at the re-lection.

While even at the district level, we've seen D5 and D6 lurch to the center.

There aren't that many "lefties" any more in SF. Most SF voters are liberal centrists and moderates, and that is who you mostly see here.

The old guard are dying out.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2013 @ 9:20 am

Of course it is all just a "fuss" as so many have taken their cue from M&R's story and headline. Move along, move along. George Gascon has become San Francisco's political Leona Helmsley, who notoriously believed the law was only for the little people.
Was it an oversight not to follow the law, despite being (in his own claim) the city's top law enforcement official? Or was it deliberate contempt for the rules applying to himself? We can get a pretty good idea from his own reaction quote that "I'm not going to bother defending it."
There is a reason why such disclosures are required. He is holding a public position to serve the public. Private agreements, particularly when they involve individuals who fall under his ambit due to prosecutions, are beyond the scope of what is permissible under the law.
Of course, while I may be reading too much into the comments posted here, it does appear that there are some who care too little about the public and much more about whether their private agenda is being served. Case example: the delight in the prosecution of Mirkarimi for bruising his wife's arm while the complete silence over the fact that Gascon has the worst record on DV enforcement of any Bay Area DA -- including cases that involved serious bodily harm and violations of stay-away orders.
Lefties often don't post in response to these types of commentators because their posts are so uninteresting and predictable. It's like arguing with gravity -- they all fall of their own weight.

Posted by CitiReport on Apr. 02, 2013 @ 8:07 am

What's that sound? The echo of your bias resounding around the room.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2013 @ 9:21 am

Jason Grant Garza here ... yes, CiitiReport you are right on when you state "Of course, while I may be reading too much into the comments posted here, it does appear that there are some who care too little about the public and much more about whether their private agenda is being served. Case example: the delight in the prosecution of Mirkarimi for bruising his wife's arm while the complete silence over the fact that Gascon has the worst record on DV enforcement of any Bay Area DA -- including cases that involved serious bodily harm and violations of stay-away orders."

Another important question in exhibiting the "Standard Operating Procedure" SOP would be to followup on what happened in case #11048 http://www.sfbos.org/index.aspx?page=11889 where the MINISTRY of SUNSHINE found FOUR (4) Supervisors guilty of Official Misconduct ... and they sat in JUDGMENT over ROSS. Where is the ZEALOUS CITY ATTORNEY in prosecuting this in front of the ETHIC COMMISSION ? Didn't this happen before ROSS?

Yes, look here but NOT over here ....

Shall I show you what I got from the DA after DPH broke the LAW? Here is DPH https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cP3jCmJFRo and here is what I got from the DA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eN41g_veF8 (something about NOT CARING about my legal rights) and when I went back to followup https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zot6w6eVntU was I assaulted ... you be the JUDGE.

Oh and by the way according to the SHERIFF ... stayaway orders can NOT be verified as to whether they are correct and legal ... it is not their JOB to insure that a stayaway is VALID. Just like it is not the JOB of the DA to prosecute and SFPD to arrest. Nice package, nice bow, nice illusion ...

"I fear no man or human; however it is the SEA of INHUMANITY that I am DROWNING in. " Jason Grant Garza

Still awaiting the RESULTS of #11048.

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Apr. 02, 2013 @ 9:49 am

Jason Grant Garza here ... wow, the city attorney's office said ... Reached by phone, City Attorney spokesperson Matt Dorsey said he was unable to offer an official comment on the matter. “I wouldn’t be able to comment on, or even acknowledge whether, we gave advice or were asked for advice,” Dorsey told the Guardian.

Can they comment on the LAWBREAKING ACTIVITY by DPH here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cP3jCmJFRo that happened on 8/15/2012 ... BOGUS ORDER, Denial of ACCESS and ACCOMMODATION, and CRIMINAL FRAUD, etc.

or what did the DA Office say about my legal rights when I went to file http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eN41g_veF8 ... note where I am told HE DOES NOT CARE ABOUT MY LEGAL RIGHTS

Shall I show you what I got from the SHERIFF (DPH's :LAPDOG/SHILL) see all 6 videos ... here is the first http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYC-syG0D7Y

and then WHAT HAPPENED when I DRANK the SHERIFF'S cup of poison (go back to DPH) on 12/19 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFd-KtS8Zss

then when I go to report the incident to the POLICE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHuQi_I8e4E ... mind you I am asked if there is something wrong with me and I reply YES, I was a FOOL for even THINKING I could get my medical and legal rights protected by the POLICE.

So what do I get form going to OCC ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnKEraML-WE

Now don't ask me what would happen if I escalated ... let's say to the Chief of Police or Police Commission ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnWpeVtOtmY and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfNkb5zEhBw and again http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ib-CQGS4DQY

and then again by DPH on the 3/15/13 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa7kfWNt4aQ

and mind you it is NOT like this DOESN'T HAPPEN (see article referred by video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IlogtTMK7E

Now it is NOT like I have not tried to re-schedule with the SHERIFF for followup, or the Chief of Police, or the Police Commission, or OCC, or David Chiu's Office for the false CIVIL GIDEON DEADEND LEAD (another story) ... ah, the list goes on.

Please note that you are NEXT since they are UNTOUCHABLE as DPH, Do you remember the recent articles regarding the BOY SCOUTS and the complicity by LAW ENFORCEMENT, COURT and MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS ... ringing any bells?

Keep DRINKING the KOOL AID and ask yourself ... if I can not get legally required medical care and they can do this ... what do you think they can SPIN you into believing?

Keep watching the videos as I will continue ...

Oh and for PRIOR LAWBREAKING ACTIVITY as confirmed and admitted to by DPH go to http://www.myownprivateguantanamo.com to see the signed confession http://www.myownprivateguantanamo.com/settle1.html

Any more questions ... oh, what happened to the INNOCENT VINDICATED VICTIM ... he got LEFT for DEAD and it started ALL over again ... why, BECAUSE THEY CAN since they have FOOLS believing that they care and are HUMANE.

Shall we see what comes of this ???

I am sure the CITY ATTORNEY, DA, CHIEF of POLICE, OCC, DPH, MOD SHERIFF, etc are all awaiting the NEXT CRISIS to divert from these matters and issues ... ENJOY.

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Apr. 02, 2013 @ 8:20 am

And the DPW have replaced their filing cabinets with new ones, in a rather tasteful hue of green.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2013 @ 9:23 am

Folks should check out the minutes of the February 4 and February 28 Human Rights Commission meetings to see that their budget may be in jeopardy for political reasons:

http://welikemike.livejournal.com/2702.html

We need to not only follow the money behind the DA's new office furniture, but also keep tabs on the DA's budget and the budget of all agencies.

Posted by MPetrelis on Apr. 02, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

huge difference to the overall budget of the city, right?

Of course, if you really cared about fiscal discipline, you'd be asking why the city continues to give insanely generous pensions to it's own employees (and politicians) because that is a million times more damaging than the odd chair here and desk there.

But I'm guessing that you don't really care about fiscal discipline at all, but rather have no problem at all with tax, borrow and spend, as long of course as it gets spent on stuff you like,.rather than stuff you don't like.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

The privileged have never had a problem taking "freebies," which they figure they deserved. I'm disappointed to see Charlotte Schultz in there as a donor. Does her honorable husband a disservice.

Posted by GuestSFreptile on Apr. 03, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

that those who support gay marriage conveniently ignore when it is pointed out that same-sex marriage is discriminatory against threesomes who want to marry.

Oh, and in my experience, the poor are far quicker to try and duck the law for personal gain than those who do not need such illicit largesse.

Most people in prison are poor.

Posted by Anon on Apr. 03, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

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