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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fire the Library Commission President (Kinda, Sorta, If You Want To ...)

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 9:59 AM

click to enlarge This is how you fire someone...
  • This is how you fire someone...

Last week, we wrote about how, after 18 consecutive rejections, the city's Ethics Commission finally took up a case forwarded its way by the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force -- and, in doing so, revealed the utter toothlessness of the city's Sunshine Ordinance.

This week it becomes clear the Sunshine Ordinance isn't just toothless, it's also gumless. It may not even have a mouth.

Here's the backstory:

Without getting into the nitty-gritty, of what the Sunshine Ordinance is, it's a pretty clear violation of it for a commission president to shout down a would-be public speaker. That's what Library Commission head Jewelle Gomez did to Sue Cauthen, who, naturally, complained. Here's where it gets interesting.

click to enlarge be_quiet.gif
While the Ethics Commission determined Gomez had, unabashedly, violated the law, it also found that it had no power of enforcement over her. Because of a freight train-sized loophole in the Sunshine Ordinance, the only people Ethics can actually punish for violating it are "elected officials, department heads, or other managerial city employees." Gomez, a volunteer appointee of erstwhile Mayor Gavin Newsom, can -- and did -- break the law. But there's no provision for punishing her.

So much for "equal justice under the law"! Ethics' solution was to write to Mayor Ed Lee asking him to do something about this. That letter was sent earlier this week -- you can read it here. If you're looking for an example of strongly worded rhetoric, you'll have to look elsewhere.

"The Commission voted to recommend that you consider taking steps to remove Ms. Gomez from her appointed office in light of her actions," it reads.

If you're counting at home, that's three modifiers prior to giving Gomez the axe -- they recommend that Lee consider taking steps to do so.

Lost in all of this, as SF Weekly noted last week, is that Ethics was far more mesmerized by the video of Gomez behaving terribly at the Library Commission meeting than it seemed to be with the merits of the case (you can hear, but not see, the uncomfortable exchange at just after the 20-minute mark of the video below.

Ethics included the video of Gomez' infraction along with its letter to Lee. More than the technical description of the commission president not allowing a speaker to opine -- but allowing her to do so later, on a slightly different topic -- this video is what imparted the severity of the violation.

Astoundingly, at the same meeting Ethics was thunderstruck by a video of a government meeting, it claimed that its own meetings need not be videotaped.

Huh. If you're looking for silver linings, here's one: Finally we have an example of irony that doesn't involve diabetics being run down by insulin trucks.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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