Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Charlotte Shultz Charity's Lawyer Pleads Ignorance to Sunshine Violations

The more I dig down on the San Francisco Host Committee, based in Menlo Park FYI, operated by Protocol-Chief-For-Life Charlotte Shultz, the more I learn how privileged this charity is and the woefully inadequate compliance monitoring by the City's General Services Administration. Newly released public records prove my point.

Bill Barnes, GSA's project manager, last month informed me that on March 14 his boss City Administrator Naomi Kelly had written to the host committee regarding my complaint that the nonprofit for the six past years had failed to hold a single public board meeting as required by law. Kelly reminded Shultz's charity that section 12L of the Nonprofit Public Access Ordinance is explicitly clear: any charity receiving $250,000 or more in City funds must hold at least two well-publicized open board meetings, and the host committee met that threshold.

Kelly says after reviewing the response, she will consider their arguments and "issue a determination" and Barnes wrote "we will have a determination shortly after their reply". The City has had the reply for almost two weeks, but no word on their determination.

Shultz's attorney at the downtown multinational law firm of O'Melveny and Myers, George Riley, on March 28 replied to Kelly stating:

"[T]he Host Committee was not aware of the opening meeting requirements of Chapter 12L for nonprofit organizations, nor was it aware that its acceptance of additional would trigger these requirements. These provisions were only recently brought to the attention of the Host Committee by the City Administrator's letter of March 14."

To paraphrase the late Leona Helmsley, I believe Shultz's operates with an attitude of laws only apply to the little people and not her. Here we have a top adviser to several San Francisco mayors, married to a former U.S. Secretary of State, and with a huge law firm providing (pro bono?) services, local attorney Thomas E. Horn is on the committee's board, and she and her cohorts haven't noticed this key provision of their City grant?

For argument's sake, let's accept that ignorance of the law and instead focus for a moment on the City Administrator and the many similar nonprofits receiving enough taxpayer dollars to trigger section 12L, and ask what method of compliance monitoring are they following because I sure don't get the sense there is any such monitoring taking place.

I shudder to think of the number of nonprofits receiving a quarter million of our dollars and ignoring sunshine laws.

The O'Melveny and Myers letter further stated:

"For the current fiscal year, the Host Committee has received $218,935 from the City Grant Programs, plus an additional $5,000 from the Port tied to French President Francois Hollande's visit in February 2014. The Host Committee does not anticipate receiving more than $250,000 for the current fiscal year."

There is one teensy-weensy problem with this allegation by the law firm. The agreement for this fiscal year shows the host committee is receiving $260,000, so section 12L is triggered.

We, the people, are subsidizing Shultz's host committee so she can carry out diplomatic functions of questionable value to taxpayers, even though another law, this one being Prop F passed in 1998 by the voters barring spending City money on diplomatic functions, seems to be flouted and of no concern to the City Administrator, the City Attorney or the District Attorney. Barnes provided this update about where my complaint on this matter stands:

The Proposition F issue, which we are treating as a separate request, relates to a ballot initiative from 1998 which references policies in effect in 1989. Therefore, additional research is required to properly respond.  Once that research is complete, we may find it necessary to consult with the City Attorney.  Such consultation would be subject to attorney-client privilege. We will inform you once we have completed this research, received advice, if any, and made a determination of how to proceed.

Sure does not sound like there's any rush to look into this nor a commitment to transparency of benefit to the taxpayers.

Let's not overlook the host committee submitting only copies of adding machine print outs of figures and no itemization of how they spend our money. Wanna know where $104,000 of the current $260,000 grant went? Better luck finding the missing Malaysian Airlines plane's black box than invoices from Shultz.

We see Shultz's lawyer pleads ignorance about 12L and incorrectly argues that the charity is not currently obliged to met the 12L required provisions of open board meetings. The host committee receiving City funds appears to violate Prop F and Shultz doesn't bother producing invoices or itemizing her expenses. All the while, the City Administrator has paid no attention to these breeches and lack of accountability.

What penalty, if any, will the City insist be exacted from Shultz and her committee for breaking the law for six, possibly more, years and presently out of compliance? Time will tell.

Compare all this with the travails of the SF Pride committee and its paltry $55,000 annual City grant. Turn your attention to what the Bay Area Reporter noted in September 2013:

In 2010 former Supervisor Bevan Dufty and [Sup. David] Campos had the city controller's office audit SF Pride. Its finding was that the organization had "both financial and governance shortcomings." [...] 

Three years ago, SF Pride was cited with not filling the 15 maximum allowable seats on its board, inconsistent methodology, outdated and undocumented vendor contracts, and noncompliance with citywide nonprofit monitoring standards.

Interesting that Shultz rakes in $250,000 annually for her parties with very restricted invitation lists, has all the baggage I've cited, and she escapes even a modicum of City scrutiny, while the SF Pride group scrapes by with a $55,000 amount and was audited, must meet myriad recommendations and changes and face heightened monitoring by the City, and puts on events without any invitation limits that attract hundreds of thousands of people and millions of dollars flow into local coffers because of SF Pride.

I'd like to see the host committee's funds withdrawn from Shultz's hands, after she's properly penalized for violating the law, of course, and the money redirected to the SF Pride committee. Could happen if enough of us spoke up for this change.

We'll see if GSA does anything public to hold Shultz and the host committee accountable to the taxpayers.

No comments: