Ethics panel OKs settlement,
finding filing errors by public power
campaign treasurer were inadvertent
San Franciscans for Affordable Clean Energy campaign treasurer
Carolyn Knee, flanked by attorney David Waggoner (left) and her
husband, Richard Knee, smiles as the Ethics
Commission finds that campaign finance reporting violations were
unintentional and votes unanimously to accept a staff-recommended
July 10, 2007
The San Francisco Ethics Commission voted unanimously Monday
to accept a staff recommendation that a fine levied against the
treasurer of pro-public power campaign organization for finance
reporting errors be reduced by 99 percent, to $267, because the
violations had been minor and inadvertent.
The treasurer, Carolyn Knee, had been charged with reporting
failures involving nearly $20,000 in contributions to San Franciscans
for Affordable Clean Energy, the leading organization among proponents
of a 2002 ballot measure that called for the city government to
replace Pacific Gas & Electric Co. as provider of electricity
to residences and businesses. But as Knee and her attorney, David
Waggoner, made clear during proceedings before the commission,
most of that amount involved contributions that were not reportable
and there was thus no violation.
The 2002 initiative and a pair of similar measures a year earlier
failed because PG&E spent $5 million to defeat them. The commission
earlier had fined attorney James Sutton, the treasurer for the
PG&E forces, $100,000 for failing to disclose a pre-election
expenditure of $800,000 during the 2002 campaign. Sutton attended
Attorney James Sutton
But, according to Ethics Commission Executive Director John St.
Croix, the reduced fine levied against Knee was fair and appropriate.
"I think that the amount is suitable. I don't believe that
there's any purpose served by further prosecuting this or asking
for a considerably larger fine through this process," St.
Knee's fine was calculated based on her ability to pay and on
the minor nature of the violations.
Following the unanimous decision, Knee told Fog City, "I
absolutely support the purpose of the Ethics Commission. There
needs to be oversight and I have no argument with that. I just
think they went a little overboard on me but, in the end, they
arrived at a just decision."
Attorney David Waggoner, who represented Knee throughout the
investigation, told Fog City: "It was a reasonably fair settlement.
I wish the commissioners had dismissed it, initially. I think
they should have taken the advice of campaign fines officer, Oliver
Luby, when he recommended no fine. However, I don't think the
commissioners would have accepted a no fine settlement.
"Carolyn has always had good intent, has cooperated and
acted in good faith, but the way the law is currently interpreted,
that doesn't matter. If a grassroots treasurer does everything
they possibly can, as Carolyn did in this case, there can still
be a violation.
"For me the intent aspect is very important. That's why
I could believe so strongly about this case and get behind Carolyn
because from the outset, her intent has always been to contribute
in a positive way to our community and there's never been any
evidence of any effort to conceal or misrepresent the facts, or
the amount of money involved, unlike the opposing entity [PG&E]
and the particular election."
In arriving at the decision, St. Croix condeded: "We have
come to learn that we have more work to do in the community of
educating smaller filers, people who have less resources. We do
have more outreach to do."
Ethics Commission Executive Director, John St. Croix.