Matt Potter 6 a.m., Aug. 27
Ethics watchdog instructs ex-San Diego mayor on how to cool off
Advice letter to former mayor Jerry Sanders comes after questions about Republican’s road trip to Mexico City with current Democratic mayor Bob Filner
The hottest days of summer are right around the corner, so what better time for craft beer-promoting ex-San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders to find even more ways to cool off?
Of course, the advice might also have come in handy to Sanders, now president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, when he headed off to Mexico City with current mayor Bob Filner in the spring.
As previously reported here on April 30, Sanders, Filner, and a bevy of Chamber types winged their way down to Mexico to talk about ways to expedite border traffic and otherwise juice the border economy.
U-T San Diego reported that the ex-mayor took the opportunity to directly impart some special wisdom to his successor.
[Sanders] said the two talked generally about city operations.
“He and I are the only two that have ever had the strong-mayor job so there’s not really a big group of people you can go talk to about it,” Sanders said.
“I think that he feels now how large it is and he’s understanding a lot of the issues so I think it’s a learning process.
To some longtime city hall observers, the encounter raised questions about whether Sanders had stepped over the line, perhaps violating the city's yearlong “cooling off” ban against lobbying and related influence peddling by former city officials. As we noted:
The chamber of commerce, which is registered as a lobbyist with the city, has a considerable influence agenda, according to its most recent disclosure statement, covering the first quarter of this year, filed this morning and posted online by the city clerk's office.
Signed by Leah Hemze, the group's acting executive director of public policy, the filing shows a broad advocacy reach, including support for the controversial effort by the city's big hotel moguls to force Filner to sign the so-called Tourism Management District funding contract; an unspecified "Infrastructure Initiative"; the San Ysidro port of entry infrastructure project; and "small business regulatory reform," including relief for "those with sidewalk cafes."
AT&T external affairs vice president Mark Leslie, a chamber board member and former chairman, is listed as lobbying Filner regarding the hotel funding matter.
A Sanders aide told us in April that he was too busy to talk to us about the matter, but since then he's apparently become more curious about the state of the law, according to a May 28 advice letter addressed to the former mayor by San Diego city ethics commission chief Stacey Fulhorst.
The bottom line may not exactly be music to the ears of the voluble Sanders.
This advice letter has been prepared in response to your request to the City of San Diego Ethics Commission for a concise summary of the post-employment lobbying restrictions in the City’s Ethics Ordinance as they apply to your current employment with the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce [Chamber].
QUESTION: To what extent do the City’s post-employment lobbying prohibitions prevent you from communicating with current City Officials and employees?
ANSWER: During your one-year post-employment period (which commences on the date you left office as Mayor), the City’s post-employment lobbying provisions preclude you from engaging in any direct communications with a City Official on behalf of the Chamber for the purpose of influencing a municipal decision.
A “direct communication” includes talking to or corresponding with a City Official (e.g., meetings, telephone calls, letters, e-mails, etc.).
The term “City Official” includes elected officials and their staffs, as well as members of City boards and commissions, City employees (other than classified employees), City agency employees, and City consultants, to the extent that such individuals are required to file Statements of Economic Interests.
Influencing a municipal decision includes any attempt to affect any action by a City Official on one or more municipal decisions by any method, and includes providing information, statistics, analysis or studies to a City Official.
In addition, according to the letter, Sanders is subject to a project ban, which forbids him from helping chamber staff to influence the affairs of local government.
The “project ban” also prohibits you from providing assistance to other Chamber officers or employees concerning their communications with City employees regarding the project.
The “project ban” will apply if you (not a member of your staff) personally and substantially took part in a project by rendering a decision, making a written recommendation, conducting an investigation, rendering significant advice, or using confidential information
Sanders can still lobby for personal and family reasons, the advice letter says, but the ban otherwise appears virtually absolute.
Although most former City Officials are entitled to an exception for speaking at public meetings and submitting written statements that become part of the record of a public meeting, this exception does not apply to former elected officials.
According to Fulhorst’s letter, the ex-mayor "specifically asked that we provide you with written advice in a succinct summary format.” She referred him to previous advice the commission gave to an ex-Sanders chief of staff as she exited city hall two-and-half years ago.
"It should therefore be noted that most of the issues address above are more fully fleshed out in the Commission’s advice letter issued to Kris Michell on December 16, 2010."
The letter to Sanders does not go into whether there is any possibility that he may have already violated the law by virtue of his meetings with Filner and other officials while south of the border in April.
More like this:
- Work for the Port or the City? You’re exempt from lobby laws — March 25, 2014
- Did Sanders violate "cooling off" ban on Filner Mexico trip? — April 30, 2013
- City ethics commission won't release Maas investigation documents — March 25, 2013
- Filner transition team to be headed by lobbyist for big developer with storied history of campaign finance violations — Nov. 8, 2012
- Pickled Herring — Dec. 16, 2004