Thursday, January 22nd
by Savannah Blackwell
The SF Sentinel broke the story on Newsom's swearing-in committee. Savannah Blackwell advanced the story Tuesday night (the original story is below hers). Adriel Hampton also had the story in the Examiner on Wednesday. Blackwell writes:
Two staffers at the San Francisco Ethics Commission have complained to the city's Sunshine Ordinance Task Force that their bosses at the agency ordered the destruction of documents potentially damaging to newly-elected Mayor Gavin Newsom and his campaign treasurer, Jim Sutton.
On Friday, January 16, Oliver Luby, who handles collecting fines for the commission and Campaign Finance Assistant Kevin De Liban filed a complaint with the task force against Executive Director Ginny Vida, Deputy Executive Director Mabel Ng, and any city attorneys who may have advised the two in their decision to force the deletion of records accidentally sent to De Liban by a staffer in Jim Sutton's office.
Since the documents pertain to campaign finance issues -- a matter of public interest over which the ethics commission has direct jurisdiction -- they should most likely be considered public documents, Terry Francke, the general counsel to the California First Amendment Project, told the Sentinel.
"Look at it this way: If someone involved in a possible crime accidentally emails some evidence to the District Attorney's office, would the D.A. then feel compelled to destroy that document and ignore its contents? I don't think so," Francke said.
In their complaint, De Liban and Luby explain that shortly after De Liban received the e-mail on Jan. 5, Tricia Weber, an employee with Sutton and Partners, called De Liban and asked him to destroy the e-mail. Weber intended to send the document to a Sutton staffer with the same first name -- Kevin Heneghan -- and had erred in sending it to Kevin De Liban.
Since De Liban had already forwarded the e-mail to other commission staffers, including Vida and Ng, he told Weber he could not honor her request. Later that day, Ng sent an e-mail to commission staff members instructing them to destroy the email at the request of Sutton's office. Luby refused, and suggested that Ng consult the city attorney's office.
Ten days later, the same day the Sentinel published a story revealing the contents of the Sutton document, Vida called De Liban and Luby into her office and ordered them again to delete the email. They refused, and told Vida that destroying a public record is a violation of state law. Ultimately, Vida walked over to Luby's computer and deleted the document herself.
Her move most likely amounts to a misdemeanor or felony, Francke told the Sentinel.
"I do not understand why Vida felt compelled or authorized to order (the e-mail's) destruction, Francke said.
According to De Liban and Luby's complaint, Vida and Ng have undermined the public's interest.
"Ms. Vida and Ms. Ng have disabled the commission and the public from exploring the full extend of the document's legal significance," the complaint says.