Former Supe Who Allegedly Violated SF Lobbying Laws To Pony Up $75K Settlement

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera today announced a proposed $75,000 settlement with a former Board of Supervisors member whom he had sued for allegedly violating the city’s lobbying law.

The agreement with former Supervisor Michael Yaki must be approved by the city’s Ethics Commission before it becomes final. The pact provides that Yaki does not admit to any liability for the allegations in a lawsuit Herrera filed in December.

The lawsuit alleged that Yaki, who now works as a lawyer and political consultant, “flouted the lobbyist ordinance in every way” when he contacted city officials on behalf of a firefighting equipment company during a revision of the city’s fire code in 2012 and 2013.

It alleged Yaki failed to register as a lobbyist, disclose lobbying payments or report more than 70 e-mail, phone and in-person contacts with the mayor’s office, supervisors and their aides, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and other Fire Department and Commission officials.

Under the pact, Yaki will pay $75,000 to the city over nine years, register as a lobbyist, file required monthly disclosures and complete an Ethics Commission lobbyist training session.

Yaki’s attorney, Stuart Gasner, said, “We are satisfied by the terms of the settlement and look forward to its approval by the relevant bodies.”

Herrera’s office also reached a separate proposed settlement with retired state fire marshal Ruben Grijalva, who will be required to register as a lobbyist, file disclosures and take the ethics training.

“These proposed settlements should send a strong message that the San Francisco lobbyist ordinance has teeth, and that we city officials take seriously our duty to protect transparency in our legislative process,” Herrera said.

The company Yaki was representing, San Carlos-based Rescue Air Systems Inc., makes a “firefighter air replenishment system” in which a network of pipes and filling stations provides pressurized air used by firefighters to refill their oxygen tanks when working in high-rises.

The company was seeking to retain a fire code requirement that mandated installation of the systems in new buildings 75 feet or taller. Fire officials had concerns about adequate firefighter training in the system and about its maintenance, however, and were recommending revising the code to include an alternative, according to the lawsuit.

The Board of Supervisors eventually voted to amend the requirement to offer developers the option of installing either the replenishment system or a firefighter service elevator that would facilitate oxygen delivery.

Yaki served as a supervisor, representing the Richmond District on the western side of the city, from 1996 to 2001. While on the board, he voted for the lobbyist ordinance in 2000, Herrera said.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, Yaki said he believed his work for the company fell into an exception in the ordinance that allows for attorney representation.

Herrera contended in the lawsuit that under the law, a lawyer who attempts to influence local legislative action is subject to the lobbyist disclosure requirements unless the lawyer is “performing a duty or service that can be performed only by an attorney.”

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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