News from: City of Oakland Public Ethics Commission

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 12, 2018

Oakland Public Ethics Commission Finds Three Violations of the Oakland Government Ethics Act by Council Member McElhaney, Imposes $2550 in Fines

The Public Ethics Commission (Commission) decided Tuesday night to impose a $2550 fine on Council Member Lynette Gibson McElhaney for receiving an unlawful gift from a company doing business with the City, voting on a contract related to that company, and failing to report the gift on required income disclosure records, in violation of the Oakland Government Ethics Act. The Commission’s action, which is final, completes the Commission’s review of Council Member McElhaney’s conduct related to her participation in a townhome project next to her home.

The Commission’s investigation found that Council Member McElhaney, as part of her participation in the Planning Commission’s appeal process related to a development project directly adjacent to her Oakland residence, committed the following violations of the Oakland Government Ethics Act: 1) solicited and received gifts in excess of the City’s annual gift limit from JRDV Urban International (JRDV), a company doing business with the City on multiple projects; 2) voted to extend the City’s contract with, and increase the amount available to pay, JRDV, and; 3) failed to report the gifts she received from JRDV on her statement of economic interests. In July 2018, an administrative law judge, after
conducting a full administrative hearing of the evidence, confirmed Commission staff’s findings and proposed a fine of $8,625 for the three violations.

After reviewing the proposed decision by the administrative law judge Tuesday night, and following robust discussion that included hearing from Council Member McElhaney and her attorney as well as members of the public who spoke to Ms. McElhaney’s integrity, the Commission decided to weigh mitigating evidence, including the fact that the Government Ethics Act had been passed only days before the first violation occurred, and impose a penalty of $2550.

“The outcome in this case reflects the Commission’s commitment to solid enforcement of our city’s ethics laws while also weighing carefully the mitigating circumstances of this case,” said Commission Chair Jonathan Stein. “Here, the violations were clear, and the Commission deliberated thoughtfully about how best to hold Ms. McElhaney accountable.”

“Oakland residents deserve a City government that is worthy of their faith and their passion,” said Stein. “The Commission’s goal is to deliver that.” The agenda and video recording of the Commission’s Tuesday, September 11, 2018, meeting is available on the Commission’s website.

The Public Ethics Commission was created by voters in 1996 and has grown significantly in recent years after adoption of the Government Ethics Act and City Charter amendment in 2014. The Commission is an independent City agency, governed by an unpaid, all volunteer seven-member citizen board. The Commission is responsible for ensuring compliance with the City’s ethics, campaign finance, and transparency laws through activities that include policy leadership, education, ethics and campaign finance disclosure, investigations, and administrative prosecution.

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Media Contact

Whitney Barazoto
Executive Director
Public Ethics Commission
(510) 238-6620


wbarazoto@oaklandca.gov