San Francisco officials 'testing' electric bikes for two years raises questions 

Two prominent elected officials seeking higher office have seemingly ridden around local gift rules to enjoy innovative electric-assist bicycles.

Both Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who is running for mayor, and District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who is running for sheriff, were provided with electric-assisted Trek mountain bikes by mountain bike guru Gary Fisher in July 2009.

Neither Chiu nor Mirkarimi listed the bicycles as gifts on required annual gift disclosure filings with the Ethics Commission covering the year 2009. Both told the San Francisco Examiner this week they don’t consider them gifts or loans.

The bikes sell for more than $2,000. Elected officials and candidates for local elective office “may not accept gifts of more than $420 from a single source in a calendar year” and gifts of $50 or more must be reported on the statements of economic interests, according to the City Attorney’s Good Government Guide.

Chiu, who has been mentioned in news reports as using the electric bike, said that Fisher routinely picks people to “beta test” his products.

Chiu said that some time in 2010 he requested an invoice from Fisher for use of the bike beyond beta-testing. Chiu said he paid Fisher $400 last month based on that invoice.

“I don’t believe any gift was provided while I beta-tested and then paid for the temporary use of a bike,” Chiu said Wednesday.

Mirkarimi said he hasn’t used his bike for at least nine months. “It’s Gary Fisher’s as far as I’m concerned,” he said Tuesday. “He’s welcome to come by and pick it up at any point.”

The arrangement is unusual, said Robert Stern, the president of the Center for Governmental Studies and an ethics expert.

“Paying the $400 was very appropriate by Chiu,” Stern said, adding, however, that it probably should have been done earlier.

“The other official should do the same thing,” Stern said. Fisher was unavailable for comment.

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