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Complaints

 

About the Complaint Procedures

The San Francisco Ethics Commission encourages the reporting of suspected violations of State or City laws relating to campaign finance, lobbying, campaign consulting, conflicts of interest, or governmental ethics. All complaints are confidential to the extent permitted by State law. Local law protects persons who file complaints with the Ethics Commission from harassment or retaliation for filing the complaint. Complainants should be aware that the Ethics Commission's Regulations for Investigations and Enforcement Proceedings, which govern the Commission's handling of complaints, provide that the Executive Director may provide a copy of the complaint to the respondent(s) if the Executive Director determines that disclosure is necessary to the conduct of the investigation.

Complainants may submit their complaints anonymously. Please be advised that the Ethics Commission may, but is not required to, process or respond to anonymous complaints and complaints that have not been signed and verified under penalty of perjury.

The Ethics Commission does not have the authority to investigate and enforce all laws relating to ethics and the conduct of City officials. The Ethics Commission does not investigate complaints pertaining to: personnel matters (such as sexual or racial discrimination or failure to comply with Civil Service requirements); violations of the State or Federal Constitution; and ethics violations by members of the judiciary.

If the Ethics Commission receives a complaint alleging violations that are not within the Commission's jurisdiction, the Commission will forward the complaint to the appropriate agency if applicable.

How to File a Complaint

  1. It is strongly recommended that prior to filing a complaint, you speak with an investigator to determine whether the matter about which you are complaining is within the Ethics Commission's jurisdiction. If it is not, the investigator will refer you to the most appropriate agency. To schedule an appointment with an investigator, please call the Ethics Commission at (415) 252-3100. Formal complaints must be in writing and submitted on a form specifically provided by the Commission staff, and the complaint must be dated, verified and signed by the complainant under penalty of perjury.
  2. Once you determine that the Ethics Commission is the appropriate agency to address your complaint, you may file your complaint (PDF) (MS Word). Please be aware that the more information you provide, e.g., names, addresses and phone numbers of respondent(s) and witnesses, all relevant facts pertaining to the complaint, and any documents that support your allegation, the easier it will be for the Ethics Commission to investigate the complaint.

Laws the Ethics Commission is Authorized to Investigate and Enforce

The Ethics Commission is authorized to investigate and enforce violations of the following local government ethics laws. The text of these laws can be found using the City Municode service. Many of these laws are also discussed in the Commission's publication "The San Francisco Ethics Commission Manual on Governmental Ethics Laws: A Guide to State and Local Laws Governing the Conduct of Public Officials and Employees," which is available in the laws and advice section.

  • Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance
    S.F. Campaign & Governmental Conduct Code (S.F. C&GC Code) § 1.100, et seq.
  • Campaign Consultant Ordinance
    S.F. C&GC Code § 1.500, et seq.
  • Lobbyist Ordinance
    S.F. C&GC Code § 2.100, et seq.
  • Sunshine Ordinance
    S.F. Admin. Code § 67.1, et seq.
  • False Endorsements on Campaign Literature
    S.F. C&GC Code § 1.163.5
  • Financial Conflicts of Interest by City Officers/Employees
    S.F. C&GC Code § 3.206
  • Payment for Appointment Nomination to City Service or Employment
    S.F. C&GC Code § 3.208 
  • City Officers/Employees Voting on Own Character or Conduct
    S.F. C&GC Code § 3.210 
  • Decisions Involving Family Members
    S.F. C&GC Code § 3.212 
  • Disclosure of Personal, Professional and Business Relationships
    S.F. C&GC Code § 3.214 
  • Gifts
    S.F. C&GC Code § 3.216 
  • Incompatible Activites
    S.F. C&GC Code § 3.218 
  • Dual Officeholding for Compensation
    S.F. C&GC Code § 3.220 
  • Contracts Between Members of Boards and Commissions and the City
    S.F. C&GC Code § 3.222 
  • City Officers Representing Private Parties Before City Boards and Commissions
    S.F. C&GC Code § 3.224 
  • Referrals
    S.F. C&GC Code § 3.226 
  • Disclosure or Use of Confidential City Information
    S.F. C&GC Code § 3.228 
  • Political Activity by City Officers/Employees
    S.F. C&GC Code § 3.230
  • Post Employment Restrictions
    S.F. C&GC Code § 3.234 
  • Intimidation or Retaliation by a City Officer/ Employee Against Persons Who File Complaints with the Ethics Commission
    S.F. C&GC Code § 4.100, et seq. 

Notice of Whistleblower Protections

The San Francisco Whistleblower Ordinance protects City employees and officers who file complaints of improper governmental activities by City employees and officers. Improper governmental activities include violating regulations or rules; misusing City resources; creating a substantial danger to public health or safety by failing to perform required duties; or abusing a City position to advance a private interest.

What protections are provided to a whistleblower?

You are protected from adverse employment action because you filed, in good faith, a complaint of improper governmental activities with the Ethics Commission, Controller, District Attorney or City Attorney, or a written complaint with your department, or cooperated with an investigation of such a complaint. The ordinance does not protect you from adverse employment action that would have been taken whether or not you engaged in the whistleblowing activity.

What should a whistleblower do if he or she believes that he or she has been subject to retaliation?

If you suffer an adverse employment action because you made a whistleblower complaint, you should file a formal complaint with the Ethics Commission within two years from the date of the adverse employment action.

Where can I find more information about the protection of whistleblowers?

See S.F. Campaign & Governmental Conduct Code (S.F. C&GC Code) § 4.100, et seq.

Enforcement Summaries

Summaries of completed cases and accusations are posted to the enforcement summaries page.