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Meeting Information

Budget and Policy Committee

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Budget and Policy Committee

Elections Commission

August 17, 2004


  • 1.CALL TO ORDER:  Chair, Michael Mendelson called the meeting to order at 5:15 pm.


  • 2.ROLL CALL:  Present were Commissioners Michael Mendelson, and Gerard Gleason. Also present were Suzanne Berg, of the Department of Elections Budget Division and deputy City Attorney Julia Moll.


3.         Discussion and possible action to approve the minutes for the Budget and Policy committee meeting of June 15, 2004.  Commissioner Gleason MOVED to approve the minutes.  CARRIED by consent.


  1. Update by Commissioner Gerard Gleason on the status of the survey of California Counties regarding their opinion on eliminating newspaper posting of poll workers and polling places and substituting website postings.  By not publishing in newspapers, the Department of Elections could see a $10,000 to $15,000 savings.  Commissioner Gleason reported that

a letter was sent to five California counties (Sonoma, Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Los Angeles) to ask their opinions of the proposal.  The Registrar of Voters in Los Angeles is also the President of the California Clerks and Elections Officers Association (CCAEO).  This organization had, in the past, tried to eliminate the newspaper posting requirement.  The counties have responded to the letter of inquiry by the San Francisco Elections Commission, saying they support the proposal.  Commissioner Mendelson asked Deputy City Attorney, Julia Moll, if the City had an “ironclad legal obligation to publish in newspapers?”  Deputy City Attorney Moll said that she would look into this question and report back to the Commissioner.  Mr. Mendelson said that he would prefer to not get into combat with the newspapers, if that were possible.

Pending submission of the legal opinion on possible legal recourse, the Committee will consider taking this item to the full Commission.  Commissioner Mendelson thanked Commissioner Gleason for taking the lead on this and initiating the contact with the other counties.


  • 5.Discussion and possible action to recommend to the full Commission that it seek compensation from the State for the impact of Fair Political Practices Committee (FPPC) filings by the San Francisco Department of Elections.  Commissioner Mendelson asked Deputy City Attorney Moll if the City was legally obligated to maintain the fillings for the FPPC.  Ms. Moll answered that the State Political Reform Act mandates that the Department of Elections serve as a filing officer for a very broad category of campaign finance statements, some of which are filed by candidates and committees that are active in the region, as opposed to specifically in San Francisco.   Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco serve as regional file offices.   Ms. Moll said that in terms of receiving recovery from the state, there is a provision of the state constitution, Article 13b, section 6, that came into effect in 1979 and pertains to anything that went into effect after 1975.  It says: “whenever the legislature or state agency imposes a new service mandate, or a higher level of service on the part of a local government, the state has to fund it.”  However, it does not apply to mandates made before January 1, 1975.  The mandate, in question, went into effect in 1974.  Secondly, the decision applied to mandates made by the state legislature and state agencies.  The State Political Reform Act was adopted after a voter initiative was passed.  Therefore the City does not have any legal entitlement for compensation for the FPPC filings it maintains.


Commissioner Gleason said that Los Angeles has a filing area of 16 assembly districts, and eight senate districts and is under the “clerk/recorder”; San Francisco has a separate, budgeted office, the Elections Department – therefore it is not under an umbrella where it can pull people from other offices to assist in the filings.


Commissioner Mendelson suggested that the DoE go to the legislature, or to the City’s budget office and let them know that it costs us approximately $200,000 annually.  Ms. Suzanne Berg, of the DoE Budget Division, said that this cost comes out of the general staffing and is not a line item in the Department’s budget.  Mr. Mendelson asked if it could be a line item so that the Department could get compensation from the Board of Supervisors.   Ms. Berg said that this would be possible if the Department could back up the request with a time study that showed that the work done was the equivalent to one full time employee.


The Committee will make a recommendation to the Commission to ask the Department to do a study to demonstrate the costs to the Department for administrating the state mandated FPPC filings.


Commissioner Gleason said he agreed and suggested that the Department seek compensation through fees that can be collected by enforcement of failing to meet the filing deadlines.


Julia Moll said that the rules are different depending on the type of filings.  She said that, in theory, it is a revenue-generating program and that the Ethics Commission does impose fines.  These monies go into the general fund.  Ms. Moll said that the Committee might be able to use the experience of the Ethics Committee to show that they have so many people working on these filings and they receive a certain amount of money each year in fines, to demonstrate the relationship.  Thus, by asking the City to allow more staffing, the City may see a return on its investment by collecting more fines.  However, Ms. Moll reminded the Committee, the funds would still go into the general fund.


Commissioner Gleason reminded the Committee that most of the papers the DoE receives are copies of documents filed in Sacramento, and the City would not have authority to impose fines for tardy filings.  Ms. Moll replied that the City does have authority to impose late filing fines for certain copies.


Ms. Moll stated that there are relatively new state requirements for electronic filing of campaign statements.  Statements that are electronically filed are posted on the internet.  For this reason, the state legislature may be willing to reconsider the purpose and scope of the regional filing officer program, because the campaign finance information is now more readily available because of the internet.


The Committee agreed to recommend to the Commission to do the time study in preparation for asking for more money for staff to do the filings.



  • 6.Discussion and possible action to ask the Commission to recommend some from of compensation, per diem or stipend, for members of the Ballot Simplification Committee (BSC) to the Board of Supervisors.  The BSC has barely had a quorum each meeting for the last 3 years and there is a great difficulty in attracting new members to serve.  The requirement calls for service on 12 consecutive days, which is a burden.  Some form of compensation may help attract new members.  Commissioner Gleason said that he didn’t know how much compensation would be necessary but that some payment would make membership more attractive.   He said he had been told by members that people refuse to participate because there is no compensation.  The BSC meetings begin at 9 am daily for two weeks.  These meetings usually run until 1:00 pm.  Commissioner Gleason suggested that the DoE obtain the money by collecting an assessed fee on paid arguments.  The Commissioner suggested $50 per meeting per person.  This would come to $2,500.


Commissioner Mendelson asked Ms. Moll if the Director could allocate money, under the day-to-day operation of the Department for this purpose.  Ms. Moll answered that this would need to go to the Board of Supervisors for approval.


Commissioner Gleason said that presently, the three members of the BSC are sole proprietors of businesses who have taken time out of their business day to volunteer.


Mr. Gleason said that he wants the Committee to explore what type of compensation others get for similar duties, and then make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors after the November election.   The Committee agreed to research compensation to members of other bodies and take the results to the full Commission to make a request of the Board of Supervisor to compensate BSC members in an amount to be determined by the study.


7.         Update of the budget process and the progress of items passed by the Commission and recommended to the Board of Supervisors.  This item was deferred to the next report by the Director to the full Commission.


  • 8.Discussion and possible action to prepare a certificate or purchase a memento in recognition of the outstanding service of Commission Robert Kenealey.  Commissioner Mendelson read the proposed resolution, a copy of which is attached to these minutes.  The Commission gave a brief history of the early days of the Commission and the turmoil it faced during the firing of the former Director.  He credited Commissioner Kenealey with being a intellectual  force during those times.  The resolution was unanimously approved.


  • 9.Public CommentJay Martin suggested that the Commission set as a policy that the DoE make all of its ballot numbers public.  He said he was specifically asking for the number of provisional ballots.  Mr. Martin said he wanted to see a “Tally of Ballots”.  These reports would include spoiled, unreadable and late ballots.  Currently, the DoE’s website only contains the Statement of Vote.



  • 10.ADJOURNMENT at 5:45 pm.