The city attorney is hoping to launch a consumer protection unit.
Launching the proposed pilot program would require hiring an attorney and a legislative assistant, something City Attorney Dennis Herrera has yet to persuade city officials is a necessary new expense.
The unit would build on Herrera’s previous efforts to look out for consumers under a broader department initiative known as the Affirmative Litigation Program, which is currently staffed by 12 attorneys with a budget of $2.7 million.
The new unit “would work closely with the existing Affirmative Litigation Program and collaborate with various city departments, including the Police Department, to investigate and prosecute allegations of unfair businesses practices,” according to a report by Harvey Rose, city budget analyst.
Rose advised the Board of Supervisors on Monday not to approve the new jobs and noted that Herrera’s department has a “growing dependence” on The City’s operating budget, increasing by $1.3 million next fiscal year and $3.3 million the subsequent year.
Herrera said the dedicated unit would allow his office to file more consumer protection lawsuits, and he said it would pay for itself with legal victories. The cost for the attorney would be $229,557 and for the legislative assistant $107,021.
Recent cases include an April 2011 lawsuit against Tower Car Wash over more than $3 million in wage theft and an October 2011 case settled with two money lenders for nearly $2 million for allegedly targeting low-income borrowers and socking them with exorbitant and illegal interest rates.
The proposal was presented Monday during a hearing of the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee, which began reviewing Mayor Ed Lee’s proposed two-year city budget. As the committee makes adjustments, department heads will come before the committee during the next two weeks to present their budgets.