Former San Francisco supe Tony Hall pays ethics fine, maintains innocence 

Mayoral candidate and former Supervisor Tony Hall on Friday paid the $6,000 fine levied against him, closing the door on an ethics investigation that spanned several years — a move that should qualify his campaign for public financing.

An Ethics Commission investigation against Hall went public in 2007 as he was challenging Gavin Newsom for mayor. The commission concluded that Hall broke the law by misusing hundreds of dollars in campaign funds raised for a scrapped run for supervisor in 2004.

The most serious of the charges was that Hall used $12,000 in campaign funds to pay off a personal loan used for his daughter’s wedding that he received from his legislative aide, Olivia Scanlon. Hall was never fined for that loan.

The Ethics Commission voted in December 2008 to sustain two of the six complaints against him, which related to poor record-keeping and using his campaign credit card to purchase personal items. The commission ultimately imposed a $6,000 fine, a fraction of the maximum $240,000 fine he faced.

Hall has been appealing the decision and still denies the charges, saying the investigation was a politically motivated attack designed to derail his challenge against Newsom and his subsequent bid against Supervisor Sean Elsbernd in 2008.

“My disagreements with the commission proceedings are well-known, but they were only a brief episode inside of my 35-year career of public service and accomplishments for the people of San Francisco,” Hall said in a prepared statement. “This is not a time for looking back.”    

While Hall said he wished to continue his appeal of the 2008 Ethics Commission proceedings, under the public financing law, no outstanding monies may be owed by a candidate receiving matching funds, according to Hall’s campaign consultant, James Fisfis, who called the payment a “practical matter.”

An appeal had been delayed because the City Attorney’s Office notified Hall that it would require a payment of approximately $5,000 — only $1,000 less than the ethics fine itself — to prepare an administrative record and transcripts of the Ethics Commission hearings, Fisfis said.

Hall is one of several high-profile mayoral candidates seeking public matching funds to augment their campaign war chests. City Attorney Dennis Herrera, former Supervisor Bevan Dufty and state Sen. Leland Yee have already been approved for a combined $1.2 million in public dollars for their mayoral campaigns.

Each candidate can get up to $900,000 in public matching funds depending on the amount of contributions they receive from San Francisco residents, according the Ethics Commission.

Jim Ross, Hall’s campaign consultant in 2004, said Hall was making a good decision to finally pay the fine.

“He’s paying his debt to society,” Ross said. “I have no proof that he did anything wrong, but do I think he was blindsided? No.”

A walk down the hall

Tony Hall’s recent political history

  • 2004 Hall runs for re-election as District 7 supervisor. On Aug. 5, he resigned from the Board of Supervisors to take an appointment as executive director of the Treasure Island Development Authority.
  • 2005 Hall is ousted as executive director of TIDA after questioning a development deal involving Mayor Gavin Newsom fundraiser Darius Anderson.
  • 2007 As the sole former officeholder, Hall is the only big name to challenge Newsom’s re-election, but he quits amid reports that the Ethics Commission had completed its investigation.
  • 2008 The Ethics Commission sustains two of six complaints against Hall, involving record-keeping and spending campaign contributions on personal items. He is ordered to pay $6,000.
  • 2011 Hall enters a crowded field of mayoral hopefuls for November. On Friday he paid his fine as he seeks public financing.


This article was corrected on Monday, May 23, 2011. The original article said the commission concluded that Hall broke the law by misusing thousands of dollars in campaign funds raised for a scrapped run for supervisor in 2004. The commission actually concluded that Hall broke the law by misusing hundreds of dollars in campaign funds raised for a scrapped run for supervisor in 2004.


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Brent Begin

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