Thursday, February 09, 2012

Wiener's Sunshine Survey of SF Agencies
Worries Transparency Advocates

(Wiener's request to the budget analyst. Click to enlarge.)

The Castro's Supervisor Scott Wiener sure is keeping busy tinkering with various city agencies and functions - attempts to dilute historic preservation at the Planning Commission, undo the will of voters on ballot measures, get the Small Business Commission to back his dog-walkers legislation, having the health department make sure nudists cover their butts in restaurants - are just a few of his many busybody, nanny-ish actions polarizing lots of constituencies.

Add to this list Wiener's look at the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force (SOTF). I was alerted yesterday by nervous open government advocates about a five-page survey from the Board of Supervisors' Budget and Legislative Analyst recently sent to all city agencies.

The survey asks questions about amount of time and expenses regarding how agencies comply with Sunshine Ordinance duties. No questions are raised about the benefits to the taxpayers because of the ordinance and the task force that hears complaints regarding municipal open government laws.

A complaint filed by a Pastor Gavin related to public notices regarding amendments to the Park Merced housing contract, led to the matter going before the SOTF on September 27. Minutes from the meeting provide some background:

[SOTF] Member Washburn, seconded by [SOTF] Member Manneh, motioned to find that Board President David Chiu, Supervisor Scott Wiener and Supervisor Malia Cohen violated Sunshine Ordinance Section 67.7(b) for not providing the public with copies of the amendments; and Section 67.15(a) and (b) for failing to adequately notice the substance of the relevant agenda item. The Orders of Determination are to be referred to the Ethics Commission and the District Attorney for willful failure and official misconduct . . .

The motion carried by the following vote:
Ayes: 8 - Snyder, Knee, Cauthen, Manneh, Washburn, Wolfe, Chan Johnson
Excused: 3 - Knoebber, Costa, West

A letter of determination dated November 1 from the SOTF more fully explains this matter and which parts of the law were violated by the supervisors.

It's my understanding that Wiener in December made the request directly to the Budget and Legislation Analyst to survey city agencies about Sunshine Ordinance time and costs, without a formal motion and no public hearing at any Supervisors' meeting. This lack of transparency on Wiener's part can happen as long as the survey project takes up less than 150 hours of the analyst's time.

My old pal Patrick Monette-Shaw, a longtime accountability and sunshine advocate, had this to say in reaction to Wiener's look at the SOTF:

Given Wiener's role in sponsoring the November 2011 ballot measures 'E' and 'F'. that would have given the Supervisors power to amend certain ballot measures passed by voters, which failed miserably at the ballot box, and now his request to analyze whether we are getting the ‘best value for our investment’ in the Sunshine Ordinance, it is clear Wiener wants to scuttle citizen access to campaign finance documents and public records. As a former deputy city attorney, his efforts to curtail San Francisco's Open Government law contributes to reasons why he should be recalled from office.

Seems clear to me we need to scrutinize how Wiener was able to launch the analyst's survey without any public notice or discussion beforehand, in addition to remaining vigilant over any proposal he may put forward regarding the SOTF and our open government laws.

Click here to read the five-page survey now circulating at city departments, and which must quickly be filled out and sent back to analyst.

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