Déjà vu: Controlling Pay-to-Play Donations
The 9/24/20 “Public Integrity Review” issued by the Controller’s Office examined the pay-to-play underside of non-profits that collect donations for City departments. As summarized in the October Westside Observer, some 33 of the 56 City departments rely on such “Friends of…” organizations to raise funds for unbudgeted expenses. The scandal-plagued Department of Public Works (DPW) under former Director Mohammed Nuru used the SF Parks Alliance as its non-profit benefactor. Nuru asked DPW contractors and permit holders to donate money to DPW accounts held by the Parks Alliance.
the Controller recommended, in that September Public Integrity Review, that the City prohibit department heads and employees from soliciting donations from those they regulate or do business with unless authorized by the Board of Supervisors.”
Virtually all the nearly $1 million raised came from 15 entities that did business with DPW. Nuru then directed how that money was spent – mostly on staff appreciation events and services delivered by his friends and associates. To prevent pay-to-play dynamics, the Controller recommended, in that September Public Integrity Review, that the City prohibit department heads and employees from soliciting donations from those they regulate or do business with unless authorized by the Board of Supervisors. That recommendation triggered a case of déjà vu.
In October 2009, former Supervisor Chris Daly proposed an Ordinance that prohibited department heads and employees from steering donations to “Friends of…” non-profits that raised funds for their departments – if the donors had business with their department. The impetus for Daly’s proposal was that officials in the Mayor’s Office allegedly steered donations to “Friends of Planning” from entities that had business before the Planning Department.
Daly’s bill faced opposition from several City departments that used their ”Friends of…” allies to offset budget cuts imposed after the 2008 Recession. The non-profits themselves also objected. They feared that Daly’s plan would have a chilling effect on donations and public-private partnerships. Interestingly, the moderate wing of the Board, then-represented by supervisors Elsbernd, Alioto-Piers, Dufty, Chu , Chiu and Maxwell tabled the proposal by voting 6 to 5 against Campos, Avalos, Mirkarimi, Mar and Daly. Eleven years later, the Controller has recommended what Daly wanted.
Dr. Derek Kerr is a San Francisco investigative reporter Contact: email@example.com
October 20, 2020