August 2014

San Francisco Government Ethics Laws and Conflicts of Interest
On Sunshine Ordinance Task Force Member
David Pilpel

by Patrick Monette-Shaw

A number of complaints against Sunshine Ordinance Task Force member David Pilpel have been recently filed documenting probable violations of both the Statement of Incompatible Activities (SIA) applicable to Sunshine Ordinance Task Force members, and violations of state and local regulations requiring annual submission of Form 700 Statements of Economic Activities (SEI) required by San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code to be filed on the California Fair Political Practices Commission's Form 700:






June 22, 2014 First SIA Complaint Against SOTF Member David Pilpel

Submitted to the Clerk of the Board of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors on June 22, the complaint was forwarded by Ms. Angela Calvillo to the Ethics Commission on June 25 for resolution.  The Ethics Commission accepted the complaint, and it is under review.

Complaint Remains Pending — Status Update August 21:   As of August 18, notice was received that the first SIA complaint against Pilpel filed on June 22, 2014 remains pending.

July 26, 2014 FPPC SEI Complaint Against SOTF Member David Pilpel

Complaint Declined — Amended Status Update July 9:   In a letter from the FPPC dated August 5 received on August 6, the FPPC declined to open an investigation, indicating that the San Francisco Ethics Commission confirmed to the FPPC that a paper hardcopy of Pilpel’s Form 700 is available in the Ethics Commission’s office.

On July 8, the Ethics Commission responded to a records request placed on July 7 to obtain Pilpel’s Form 700; Pilpel’s Form 700 provided by Ethics on August 8 shows it was submitted past the April 1 deadline and appears to have been submitted directly to Ethics, rather than submitted through Pilpel’s Filing Officer (Peggy Nevin).

Pilpel had been notified prior to March 2, 2014 of the requirement that he file his Form 700 directly to and with Peggy Nevin, the Board of Supervisors Filing Officer who prepared a Certification of Delivery report on behalf of Ms. Calvillo, who as Clerk of the Board is the “department head” responsible for sending annual reminders to members of boards and commissions like the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force. Pilpel should have known that he needed to submit the Form 700 to Ms. Nevin prior to the April 1 deadline.

On March 8, Ms. Cavillo and Ms. Nevin signed and submitted to the Ethics Commission a Filing Officer Report submitted to the Ethics Commission that reported SOTF Member Pilpel and SOTF’s then chairperson, Kitt Grant, had both failed to file their Form 700's with their Filing Office (Ms. Nevin) at the Board of Supervisors by the April 1 due date.

On May 2, the Ethics Commission sent Pilpel its first letter notifying him that he had failed to comply with the April 1 due date

On July 2, the Ethics Commission sent notices to 39 filers who had not submitted their Form 700’s by the April 1 due date.  Pilpel is one of the 39 late filers (and non-filers) who wee sent the notice on July 2.

Four months later, now that Pilpel’s Form 700 has somehow magically surfaced as having been received by the Ethics Commission on April 14, there’s a host of unanswered questions and no information about where the form has been all these months, and why the Ethics Commission continues to include Pilpel’s name on-line in a list of “non-filers.”

The Ethics Commission’s non-filers table on its web site as of August 9 states that filers “did not file the Statement of Economic Interests (Form 700), and have been late by at least 60 days, have been notified twice in writing, and have been referred to the FPPC for possible enforcement,” and now indicates there is some sort of “unresolvable complication” with Pilpel’s Form 700 filing that only a paper copy (not an electronic copy) is available.

To be fair to Mr. Pilpel, either the Ethics Commission should remove his name from the on-line list of non-filers, or provide an explanation of what “unresolvable complications” remain that may justify continuing to include on-line Pilpel’s name in a list of non-filers.

And the Ethics Commission has offered no explanation as to why it has not scanned Pilpel’s Form 700 paper copy to PDF format and uploaded it to the searchable database of SEI’s filed with the City along with Pilpel’s previous on-line filings.

This sordid affair could have been entirely avoided, had Pilpel submitted his Form 700 to his Filing Officer at the Board of Supervisors before the April 1 deadline.

July 27, 2014

Ethics Commission SEI Complaint Against SOTF Member David Pilpel

Addendum to Ethics Commission Complaint Violation of Form 700 SEI

Amended Status Update July 9:   The Ethics Commission never confirmed receipt of the complaint, has not indicated whether it may have been dismissed, and has not indicated whether the complaint may remain pending.

The addendum to to initial complaint involves whether Pilpel’s failure to submit his Form 700 after a four-month period constitutes willful failure to have complied with San Francisco’s Conflict of Interest and Ethics Laws.

Mr. Pilpel did not file his Form 700 by the required April 1, 2014 deadline, despite having been notified on March 2 of the required due date.  Again,as of May 2, the Ethics Commission had sent Pilpel its first letter notifying him that he had failed to comply with the April 1 due date.  Pilpel has now been notified in writing twice by the Ethics Commission, has been late at least 60 days (he has actually been late for four months as of August 3), and he has been referred by the Ethics Commission to the FPPC for possible enforcement.

Mr. Pilpel is not the only Sunshine Task Force member who failed to file the Form 700 by the required due date.  A list of 39 late filers obtained from the Ethics Commission shows that the Task Force’s former chairperson, Kitt Grant, also did not file her annual Form 700 by the April 1 due date.  Ms. Grant resigned from the Task Force on May 1, and only submitted her annual Form 700 for the calendar year 2013 reporting period, and her “leaving office” Form 700 for the period January 1, 2014 through her May 1, 2014 resignation on April 15.

Complaint Dismissed — Amended Status Update August 21:  The August 13 complaint dismissal letter from the Ethics Commission claimed that the FPPC had provided notice on August 5, 2014 that Mr. Pipel had submitted a paper SEI Form 700 to the Ethics Commission on April 1.

The dismissal letter is simply incorrect: The FPPC’s letter contained no date on which the Ethics Commission had located Mr. Pilpel’s Form 700, and did not mention the date on which Pilpel may have actually submitted it to the Ethics Commission. Indeed Pilpel’s Form 700 scanned from hardcopy to PDF format and finally provided by the Ethics Commission on August 8 bears a date-time stamp that the Ethics Commission had received it on April 14, not on April 1, as wrongly reported in the complaint dismissal letter dated August 13.

Oddly, as of August 21, Pilpel remains listed on the Ethics Commission's non-filer’s web page, with the explanation that there is some sort of “unresolvable complication” with Pilpel’s Form 700 filing that only a paper copy (not an electronic copy) is available.  

If, according to the Executive Director’s August 13 complaint dismissal letter that Pilpel had submitted his Form 700 on April 1, no explanation has been provided why Pilpel may have been wrongly plaed on the non-filer’s web page to begin with.

August 3, 2014 Second SIA Complaint Against SOTF Member David Pilpel

Complaint Dismissed — Status Update August 21:   Notice was received on August 15 that the second SIA complaint against Pilpel involving the Ethics Commission’s July 28 hearing was dismissed by the Ethics Commission's Executive Director on August 13. Due to potential improprieties in the August 13 dismissal letter, an appeal on the dismissal will be submitted to the Ethics Commission at its September 22 meeting.

The dismissal letter cited only Section III.A.1 of the applicable SIA, and did not address Section III.B.1, “Restrictions That Apply to Officers or Employees in Specified Positions,” which expressly prohibits officers providing advice concerning Sunshine Ordinance complaints to other entities. Dismissing the second complaint without considering Section III.B.1 of the SIA, and without considering prohibitions against ex parte communications, is troubling.

The Sunshine and Ethics training provided by the City Attorney’s office in the “Sunshine & Ethics Training Video” from 2014 on the City Attorney’s web site that Mr. Pilpel is required to have taken as part of his annual and bi-annual filings indicates that boards and commissions such as the Sunshine Task Force may act like an adjudicative court, and must protect the parties” due process rights, and commissioners must act like judges, including following procedural rules such as bans on ex parte communications.

The Ethics Commission Executive Director’s dismissal of the second SIA complaint did not address the prohibitions against ex parte communications.