A supervisors committee gave its nod this afternoon to a gay ethics commissioner who has drawn fire from a number of former LGBT ethics commissioners and staffers.
The rules committee voted to recommend that the full Board of Supervisors appoint Brett Andrews, executive director of the Positive Resource Center, to a vacant seat on the five-person ethics commission.
During the May 16 hearing, all three members of the panel said Andrews and the other applicant, Hulda Garfolo, who chaired a Civil Grand Jury that issued critical reports on the ethics commission, were well qualified.
But Garfolo’s criticisms of the ethics commission staff and its executive director tipped the vote in Andrews’ favor. District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee, chair of the rules committee, and District 5 Supervisor London Breed backed Andrews.
“My edge giving to Mr. Andrews, mainly because both of you seem to have critical thinking skills and have passion to do this work. One advantage for me was Mr. Andrews early on willingness to reach out and express his interest in this,” said Yee. “I was able to sit down and ask more questions of him and get to know him better.”
Breed said she was particularly struck by Garfolo’s comments that the ethics commission is led by the staff. She questioned how effective Garfolo could be “if you don’t have a level of trust for people managing the department?”
“It is about people working together and being open-minded, not just pointing the finger,” said Breed.
District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen had recommended to send both applicants to the full board but ended up voting with the majority to only support Andrews.
She too said that, “I don’t agree with Garfolo’s assessment the staff is leading the commission.” Nonetheless, Cohen said both applicants are “smart leaders in their own respective fields.”
As the B.A.R. reported online Wednesday, a group called Friends of Ethics sent in a letter raising questions about Andrews’ lack of experience with the ethics commission and how his ties to city leaders would impact his ability to review ethics complaints.
During the hearing Andrews pledged to approach the role on ethics with the same “integrity and professionalism” as he does his nonprofit work. When Yee asked him if he was “comfortable” with moving his application forward knowing the rules barring ethics commissioners from engaging in political activities, Andrews responded he was.
Garfolo told the supervisors she felt that the ethics commission “continues to fail in its mandated mission” to enforce sunshine law violations and transparency in local politics.
“The citizens are entitled to know who is paying for access at City Hall,” she said. Later in the hearing Garfolo said that “one thing I feel very strongly about is ethics commissioners, given their authority, have not been as forceful … haven’t taken their responsibility as seriously as they should.”
Only three public speakers addressed the committee, and all voiced support for Garfolo over Andrews.
“It is important in appointing someone to this term to find someone who has a leg up on understanding of our ethics laws. I support Hulda Garfolo; she has enormous experience,” said lesbian former ethics commissioner Eileen Hansen, one of the signatories to the letter opposing Andrews’ selection for the seat.
The full board is expected to vote on the vacancy at its Tuesday, May 21 meeting. It is believed that the full board is more evenly divided and that Board president David Chiu (D3) could be the swing vote to decide if Andrews gains the seat.