This is not illegal -- but not for lack of trying. A proposed city charter amendment that would have forbade city employees from serving on such boards failed handily in last year's election. The proposition's opponents, namely organized labor, pointed out that the language of the legislation would have prevented, say, a firefighter from serving on the environment commission -- and what does that accomplish?
That's a good point; this wasn't a very well-written proposition. Because it also doesn't make much sense for the mayor or president of the board to appoint his or her direct underlings to positions ostensibly reserved for "citizens."
And while that practice is not common, critics of Newsom claim he has brought it into the mainstream. Mayoral spokesman Nathan Ballard reported that Newsom has previously elevated city employees Bill Lee to the planning commission; Frank Lee to the Building Inspection Commission; and George Lau to the Fire Commission. He also placed Mayor's Office employee Dwayne Jones on the Housing Authority Commission.
Former Board President Aaron Peskin chimes in that Newsom even appointed two members of his office staff to the Board of Supervisors: Carmen Chu and Sean Elsbernd (the latter of which, incidentally, joined Peskin last year to support the curtailing of city employees being allowed to serve on commissions).
"This really undermines the notion of having real citizen commissions," Peskin says. "It's just an extension of the mayor's office."
Haryati did not return our calls. But it's difficult to say that she is not qualified to sit on the Arts Commission. She is a licensed landscape architect -- filling a seat on the commission earmarked for a landscape architect -- with plenty of experience devising and building public installations in major cities.
Arts Commission President P.J. Johnson, reached on vacation, hadn't heard about his three new colleagues. He declined to comment other than to say they all "sound great," and note that Haryati is the second landscape architect on the commission alongside Topher Delaney.
"We should be in good shape with landscape," Johnson says.