San Diego City Council chambers. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

A plan to boost experience requirements for future members of the Ethics Commission received initial backing Wednesday from members of a San Diego City Council committee.

The Rules Committee unanimously supported a proposal to boost the number of attorneys on the seven-member city commission, which investigates allegations of campaign finance violations and issues fines if they’re found to be true, from at least two to at least three.

Also, prospective commissioners should also be able to demonstrate familiarity and experience in campaign finance laws, government ethics, and lobbying laws and conflict of interest regulations, according to the proposal.

Staff originally wanted at least four lawyers on the commission.

Stacey Fulhorst, the commission’s executive director, said three lawyers happen to serve on the panel now.

“It has been beneficial having people with backgrounds in legal experience, because they are analyzing and applying the relevant provisions of the municipal code, whether it’s doing enforcement or making recommendations for legislative amendments,” Fulhorst said. “It can’t hurt to have more lawyers.”

The tougher requirements stem from a county grand jury report on governance of the commission. Staff acknowledged that eventual adoption of the rules by the full City Council would likely shrink the pool of future applicants.

Other restrictions approved by the committee:

— at least two members must have been a candidate for an elective governmental office, held such an office, or worked as a treasurer or other high level position in a campaign for elective governmental office;

— commissioners cannot run for elective office in the city of San Diego within twelve months of their tenure; and

— people who ran against a current elected city of San Diego official, or who served in a staff capacity for the campaign of such a candidate, are not allowed to serve on the commission, because of the potential for a conflict of interest, until the official leaves office.

—City News Service

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