Mayor's press office may be subpoenaed for resisting Sunshine
Ordinance document request
Members of the Sunshine Task Force voted 8-1 to forward to the
San Francisco Ethics Commission an issue of determination as to
what work product is protected under the Sunshine Ordinance.
By Pat Murphy
July 26, 2006
The Mayor's Office of Communications (MOC) may find itself under
subpoena for withholding material requested through the City's
At issue are seven emails withheld from Supervisor Chris Daly
as part of a package of information sought under the ordinance
by Daly's legislative aide John Avalos.
The request targeted MOC Peter Ragone's communications regarding
an ordinance and a ballot measure authored by Daly.
Both required prominent notification to potential buyers of Tenancy-In
Common (TIC) properties of any evictions to seniors or the disabled
in property history.
Mayor Gavin Newsom vetoed the ordinance prompting Daly to place
a similar requirement on the June 2006 ballot which voters approved.
Ragone became involved in the controversy after a report first
appearing in BeyondChron.org
identified Ragone as buyer of a TIC condominium where eviction
of a disabled woman once occurred.
At that time, potential properties buyers received notice of
such previous evictions as part of many buyer notifications but
they were not as prominent as Daly legislation required.
When the matter came to light Ragone told the San Francisco Chronicle
that buyer notifications Ragone had received were contradictory
as to whether evictions had occurred under the state Ellis Act.
'"When there's conflicting information, I assumed it was
Ellis Acted,'" Ragone told the Chronicle.
Ragone's participation in forming Newsom Administration TIC buyer
notification policy would be a conflict of interest, Daly contended
to the Task Force Tuesday.
"There were reports... Mr. Ragone was involved in a dispute
over Tenancy-In Common that he may have been able to purchase
and there was also a report... that Mr. Ragone was involved in
policy discussion involvement in policy formation within the Mayor's
Office," Daly told Task Force members.
Supervisor Chris Daly
The MOC maintains seven of Ragone's emails meet Sunshine Ordinance
exemption criteria due to their draft status.
However, the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance Task Force last
night concluded criteria may not have been met.
"We cannot determine that they are drafts," stated
Task Force chair Doug Comstock.
"We cannot determine that they are not drafts because we
do not have them in front of us."
Sunshine Task Force Chair Doug Comstock
Without access to those emails to make its own determination,
the Task Force voted 8-1 to forward the issue to the San Francisco
Ethics Commission for investigation and possible action.
The commission holds subpoena power to compel document release
while the Task Force does not. Possible action by the commission
includes referral to the local District Attorney or state Attorney
General for prosecution.
Even so, the Task Force vote included a provision to withdraw
referral to the commission if the emails are released soon.
Additionally, MOC deputy director Jennifer Petrucione noted the
Mayor's Office would consider release if portions of the emails
are redacted - a resolution suggested by Task Force Member Sue
Mayor's Office of Communications Deputy Director Jennifer Petrucione