Prop D
Prohibitions on Gifts and Bribery
Changes to Local Ethics Laws

Expands rules prohibiting gifts and bribery, imposes personal liability on city officials who fail to disclose certain relationships, brings greater consistency to local ethics laws, and expands ethics training requirements for city officials.

Vote YES

Jump to SPUR’s Recommendation

Proposition D would strengthen San Francisco’s rules and enforcement around campaigns and governmental conduct in a number of key ways, including:

  • Expanding ethics training requirements to over 4,000 city officials who participate in making government decisions and who file ethics forms with the city, known as Form 700 filers
  • Standardizing rules across departments that govern certain conflicts of interest, known as “incompatible activities”
  • Expanding gift prohibitions for city officers and employees
  • Expanding rules prohibiting bribery
  • Prohibiting members of the public from acting as intermediaries for city officers and employees with respect to certain prohibited gifts
  • Imposing ethics violations and disciplinary actions on city officials for failure to disclose certain personal relationships
  • Requiring supermajority approval from the Ethics Commission and Board of Supervisors for amendments to certain ethics-related ordinances
  • Appropriating $43,000 to fund administrative costs required to implement the ordinance

According to the San Francisco Ethics Commission, these changes are also designed to standardize ethics rules and enforcement across city departments. If this measure passes, the provisions would become effective six months after the election.

The Backstory

Recent corruption charges brought by the U.S. Department of Justice have exposed numerous instances in which individuals seeking favorable outcomes from San Francisco city government provided meals, travel, luxury goods, and other gifts in an attempt to influence the actions of city officials. To date, over a dozen high-ranking city leaders across multiple departments have been indicted on federal charges or sentenced to prison.

In 2020, the Ethics Commission’s policy team undertook a major policy project in response to these investigations of alleged corrupt behavior. In particular, the commission scrutinized the city’s current gift laws and explored changes to ensure that governmental decisions are made in a fair and impartial way and to remove perceptions that San Francisco is a “pay-to-play” city. For example, this measure would remove most of the exceptions to what constitutes a gift to a city official and would outright ban a registered permit expediter from giving any type of gift to a city official — two direct responses to many of the federal bribery charges made against leaders at the Department of Building Inspection, Department of Public Works, Recology, and the Public Utilities Commission.

The commission completed its work on the proposal in 2021 and was prepared to place this suite of reforms on either the June or November 2022 ballots. However, significant concerns were raised by the Municipal Executives Association (MEA), the labor union representing department heads and senior managers. The MEA advocated to delay putting the measure on the ballot until the Ethics Commission could complete a formal process to meet and confer with city bargaining units and make adjustments to the proposal. During this process, the measure was fine-tuned to account for city employees’ different responsibilities between departments and to ensure that the new compliance requirements are possible to implement and oversee. This process was finished in July 2023 after satisfying the department heads’ concerns. One month later, the commission voted to place this measure on the March 2024 ballot.

This measure was placed on the ballot by the Ethics Commission. It requires a simple majority (50% plus one vote) to pass.

Equity Impacts

SPUR did not identify any significant direct equity impacts for this measure. However, high-visibility corruption and bribery by public officials erodes public trust in government and could lead to disinvestment in the public sector. The public sector — particularly local government — is one of the key safety nets to close racial and wealth disparities by funding affordable housing and social programs. One outcome of this measure passing could be to restore the public’s trust in government, ensuring that future voters support tax measures that benefit those who are disproportionately underserved by the private market and federal and state government.


  • Banning city officials from accepting prohibited gifts from intermediaries would directly clarify a known ambiguity in the San Francisco Ethics Code.
  • Having standard ethics definitions across departments, such as that for incompatible activities, could improve public trust by holding all city officials to the same enforceable rules.
  • Expanding ethics training to all Form 700 filers in city government is a best practice to prevent intentional and unintentional ethics violations. (Some departments, such as the Mayor’s Office, already choose to require this training for all their staff.)
  • Amending this measure would require a vote from both the Board of Supervisors and the Ethics Commission. This could prevent supervisors from changing the gifts and incompatible activities policies to benefit themselves, while also forcing collaboration between these two entities if and when policy change is needed.
  • Showing the public that San Francisco takes corruption scandals seriously and is doing what’s necessary to prevent this from happening again could increase trust in government overall, improving voters’ willingness to invest in public programs.
  • The iterative process to develop the final measure included feedback from the Municipal Executives Association as well as the Ethics Commission, which led to a more effective measure and targeted implementation.


  • Staying compliant with complex gift rules was already confusing to the overwhelming number of city officials who have never violated the Ethics Code yet whose jobs require them to do work in the community or at private events. The new rules could impose an additional compliance burden, especially at ticketed events where city staff must be able to accept free tickets because they are attending the events as city employees for a mandatory work responsibility.
  • Enforcement takes resources. The new, more complex requirements could increase costs and workload at the City Attorney’s Office, as more staff would have to perform due diligence on last-minute professional obligations. Additionally, it’s uncertain if the Ethics Commission has the resources to adequately monitor, enforce, and investigate potential violations. Without increased resources, it’s possible that the Ethics Commission could selectively or unreliably enforce these new rules.
SPUR's Recommendation

Recent corruption in San Francisco government lays out a case for much-needed internal reform. Election officials, department heads, and commissioners should not be accepting gifts or performing activities that could compromise the integrity of city decisions and the contracts process. SPUR applauds the Ethics Commission’s Policy Unit for its efforts to prevent further abuse of gift rules and incompatible activities and the Municipal Executives Association for speaking up and demanding that the Ethics Commission refine the measure so that good-faith, high-integrity city employees can fulfill their legitimate job responsibilities.

Vote YES on Prop D - Prohibitions on Gifts and Bribery