At their meeting today (Tuesday, June 4) an overwhelming majority of San Francisco supervisors voted to name a gay man to the city’s ethics panel. It is the first time an LGBT person has been named to the body since 2011.
By an 8-3 vote, the board approved a recommendation from its rules committee to name Positive Resource Center Executive Director Brett Andrews to a vacant seat on the oversight body. The board, by a 7-4 vote, defeated a motion to send the issue back to committee in order to seek new applicants for the position.
“I think Brett Andrews is a superb nominee,” said gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener. “He is a well-liked leader in the LGBT community, the African American community and the HIV services community and beyond. He is universally respected in our community.”
Wiener rejected comments from critics of Andrews that his lack of previous work on ethics should disqualify him from the panel. He noted none of the current members on the five-person commission had a professional background in ethics.
“When we look for commissioners, we are looking for citizen representatives who bring their experience in the community to the commission to exercise common sense oversight of various departments,” said Wiener. “Mr. Andrews brings that experience to the commission.”
As the Bay Area Reporter noted last month in several blog posts, Andrews proved to be a controversial nominee. He drew complaints from former staffers of the ethics commission and past members of the oversight panel, who emailed the supervisors in recent weeks to voice their opposition to his candidacy.
Their concerns included the fact that PRC seeks funds from city officials who could come before the ethics panel and that the agency faced a whistle-blower lawsuit filed by a former employee.
Andrews rejected the criticisms, noting that the lawsuit was settled with PRC not held liable for any ethical violations or any wrongdoing. He also claimed that he does not lobby City Hall or the Board of Supervisors “for PRC-specific funding” and would abide by the recusal policies governing ethics commissioners.
The board’s rules committee voted unanimously May 16 to forward Andrews on to the full board for approval. While it found the other applicant, Hulda Garfolo, who chaired a Civil Grand Jury that issued critical reports on the Ethics Commission, to be well qualified, the rules committee declined to make a dual recommendation for the vacant seat.
At the full board hearing on the matter, District 11 Supervisor John Avalos moved to postpone the decision in order to find more applicants with a stronger background in ethics. He praised Andrews’ work on HIV issues but said he was underwhelmed with his responses about ethics when me met with him.
“It would be great if we considered other candidates and promoted other people coming forward with work in this field,” said Avalos.
Gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos also praised Andrews and said he would be a supporter of his being on any other city oversight body. But he too suggested Andrews lacked the necessary background to serve on ethics.
“I do believe he has done tremendous work around the area of HIV and protecting so many vulnerable people in our community. For me, the question is, is this the right fit for the ethics commission,” said Campos, adding that he had come to the conclusion someone else was needed for the panel.
“I haven’t heard an articulation for why this is the best fit in the end,” said Campos.
Joining with Campos and Avalos to delay the vote were District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim and District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar. But the motion’s defeat was certain when District 3 Supervisor David Chiu, the board president, announced he would support Andrews’ nomination.
Chiu is working with City Attorney Dennis Herrera to push for adoption of several ethics changes this year. He met with both candidates for the seat and was impressed with Andrews’ responses to his questions, said Chiu.
“I can report I am happy to say he does support the goals of ethics reform and is eager to have ongoing discussions with us at the board and the public on it,” said Chiu.
In the end, Kim joined with the majority on the board voting to name Andrews to the vacancy caused by the resignation of former commissioner Dorothy Liu. His term expires February 1, 2017.