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About the Commission
The Public Ethics Commission is a seven-member board of Oakland residents who volunteer their time to participate on the Commission. Three members are appointed respectively by the Mayor, City Attorney, and City Auditor and confirmed by the City Council, and four members are recruited and selected by the Commission itself. Each Commissioner may serve up to two consecutive three-year terms. No member of the Commission may do the following:
- Have an employment or contractual relationship with the City during the member's tenure and for a period of one year after the date of separation.
- Be a registered Oakland lobbyist or be required to register as an Oakland lobbyist, or be employed by or receive gifts or other compensation from a registered lobbyist during the member's tenure and for a period of one year after the date of separation.
- Seek election to any other public office in a jurisdiction that intersects with the geographic boundaries of Oakland, or participate in or contribute to an Oakland municipal election.
- Endorse, support, oppose or work on behalf of any candidate or measure in an Oakland election.
The Commission was created by City Charter Section 202 in 1996 with the goal of ensuring "fairness, openness, honesty and integrity" in City government. The City Charter was amended in November 2014 to strengthen the Commission by adding Section 603. In 1997, City Council added Chapter 2.24 of the Oakland Municipal Code, outlining the specific duties of the PEC including overseeing compliance with the following laws and policies:
- Oakland Government Ethics Act
- Oakland's Campaign Reform Act (OCRA)
- Conflict of Interest Code
- Sunshine Ordinance
- Limited Public Financing Act
- Lobbyist Registration Act
- Oakland's False Endorsement in Campaign Literature Act
Some of these ordinances grant the Commission specific powers of administration and enforcement. In addition, the Commission is governed by its Operations Policies and Enforcement Complaint Procedures.
The citizens of Oakland have also entrusted the Commission with the authority to set the salary for Oakland City Council Members and the duty to adjust the salary by the Consumer Price Index annually. The Commission administers compliance programs, educates citizens and City staff on ethics-related issues, and works with City staff to ensure policies are in place and are being followed. The Commission also is authorized to conduct investigations, audits and public hearings, issue subpoenas, and impose fines and penalties to assist with its compliance responsibilities.
The Commission meets on the first Monday of every month at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall, and meetings are open to the public and broadcast locally by KTOP, Oakland's cable television station.
The Commission's Strategy
The Public Ethics Commission fosters transparency, promotes open government, and ensures compliance with ethics laws through a comprehensive approach that emphasizes prevention, enforcement, and collaboration.
Prevention activities consist of education, outreach, information, and advocacy to help individuals understand and comply with government integrity laws and to suggest legislative changes when necessary. The Commission is a resource for City staff, public officials, candidates for local elective office, lobbyists, contractors doing business with Oakland, City residents, businesses and other organizations.
Enforcement includes investigations, audits, public hearings, subpoenas, fines, and penalties for certain types of violations. The Commission also incorporates alternative enforcement strategies, such as sharing information publicly and referring issues to another enforcement entity where appropriate.
Collaboration recognizes that lasting results are achieved not through education and enforcement alone, but through a comprehensive strategy that aligns all points in City government – including clear policies and process, effective management and provision of staff resources, technology and infrastructure that support the process, and an understanding of citizen expectations. A collaborative approach includes engagement, innovation, and partnership to leverage the efforts of City and community partners working on similar or overlapping initiatives and facilitate changes in systems and culture to achieve ethical and open government outcomes.
Public Ethics Commission Retreat March 2013