The political scene in San Francisco has been rather competitive for years. This is a diverse city with a great deal going for it, so it is not surprising that more than a few candidates are consistently vying for public office. Occasionally, however, ethical complaints are lodged against even the best intentioned of candidates. Just recently, District Attorney George Gascon announced that he is pursuing felony charges against two Sheriff deputies in Alameda County. This comes not long after Gascon himself has been fined by the San Francisco Ethics Commission for campaign finance violations.
This underscores the need for better reform within the existing system. Gascon came under fire because he solicited campaign donations from city employees, which was a clear violation of existing ethical guidelines long put into place in San Francisco. Members of his staff, including Assistant District Attorney Michael Swart and Chief of Staff Cristine Soto DeBerry were also found to be at fault and required to pay a $1,400 fine. Common sense would seem to indicate that public officials should not use their position to raise money from the very individuals that they supervise; yet that appears to be the case in this situation.
As a district attorney, Gascon has a great deal of influence over legal matters affecting public and private individuals throughout San Francisco. He is held to a high standard, and as reports indicate, he should know better than commit a violation of such an egregious scale. Penalties should be harsher in order to discourage such activity in the future.
The mere notion that the District Attorney is now pursuing ethical charges against other public employees speaks to the gravity of this situation. The public is looking to its elected officials to uphold the integrity of the office. In an era where the average member of society is increasingly skeptical of its elected officials, true reform cannot come soon enough.
Learn more about George Gascon: