“You pay to play here,” Zula Jones, then a Human Rights Commission employee, told an FBI agent posing as a developer seeking access to Mayor Ed Lee. “We’re the best at the game.”
Jones’ recorded comments were played in court this week during a hearing on bribery and money laundering charges against her, former Human Rights Commission member Nazly Mohajer, and former school board President Keith Jackson. The district attorney’s office has charged Jones and Mohajer with soliciting $20,000 in bribes from the undercover agent — allegedly the pay-to-play Jones alluded to — based on evidence collected in the federal case against convicted Chinatown racketeer Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow.
The court proceedings unfolded as the Ethics Commission prepared to consider a series of steps to rein in such behavior. Proposals to be taken up Monday include an apparently overdue ban on fundraising by members of city boards and commissions such as the one implicated in this case.
Ethics officials also advocate a reasonable expansion of pay-to-play restrictions prohibiting campaign contributions by city contractors to encompass those seeking other government privileges, such as building permits and zoning variances. In a recent Chronicle Open Forum piece, Ethics Commission Chair Peter Keane and Friends of Ethics co-founder Larry Bush noted that only one-tenth of city lobbying is in pursuit of contracts.
Keane and Bush also persuasively suggest restricting “backdoor” means of courting public officials, including free travel and the more than $10 million in behested gifts that Lee and others have directed to various organizations over the past two years.
As a 2014 grand jury report on San Francisco ethics noted, “Groups interested in affecting city government action work continuously, adjusting their approach to the political season — sometimes campaign contributions, sometimes gifts and event tickets and travel, sometimes behested payments, and so on.” It seems the city has made “the game,” as Jones called it, too easy to play.
SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — San Francisco's Director of Public Works and the owner of a popular Fisherman's Wharf restaurant were arrested Monday on allegations of public corruption related to ...