Stacey Fulhorst of the city’s Ethics Commission says politicos can admit their mistakes but fear being labeled “unethical.”
Would a crooked politico smell just as bad under a new name for San Diego’s ethics commission? That was the question discussed at last month’s meeting of the body tasked with meting out justice for the city’s political miscreants. Commission executive director Stacey Fulhorst told members that some politicians have an issue. “Although they are willing to admit their mistakes, they are reluctant to pay an Ethics Commission fine for fear of being labeled ‘unethical,’” Fulhorst explained.
Commissioner Paul Kreit, a professor at Thomas Jefferson law school and controlled-substance expert, took the defendants’ side. “When the term ‘ethics violation’ is used for all enforcement actions, he believes it detracts from the more serious violations,” according to the meeting’s minutes. “He stated that a name change could help distinguish between different types of violations, and he suggested Ethics and Political Practices as a possible alternative.” Another commissioner, self-employed “public policy consultant” Andrew Poat, agreed, saying “he is in favor of exploring alternatives because the Commission regulates certain processes and failing to abide by some of these processes does not necessarily indicate unethical behavior.”
A onetime vice president with the San Diego Economic Development Corporation, Poat made $9490 in political contributions from 2007 through 2013, city disclosure records show, including to the mayoral campaigns of Bob Filner, Carl DeMaio, and Nathan Fletcher. Greg Zinser, a retired medical billing maven, said he, too, wanted to reduce the onus on the put-upon pols, suggesting that “the name Governmental Ethics and Policy Compliance would be appropriate because some issues within the Commission’s purview are ethics-related but the majority fall under policy compliance.”
Of late, the commission has been handing down few enforcement actions, period. The most recent stipulations posted online involved four November 2014 money-laundering cases spun off by the federal investigation into José Susumo Azano Matsura, the Mexican national accused of illegally funding campaign efforts on behalf of ex-Democratic mayor Bob Filner and Republican district attorney Bonnie Dumanis. Escondido towing company owner Amir Iravani agreed to pay $20,000 for using employees to launder campaign cash. Three associates of Ernesto Encinas, an ex–San Diego cop who has copped a plea for his role in the scheme, agreed to come up with $5000 each for similar violations.