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Former SF Supervisor Agrees to Pay Settlement Over Lobbying Allegations

| February 21, 2014
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Michael Yaki, former San Francisco supervisor and current member of U.S. Civil Rights Commission, is accused of violating city’s lobbyist law. (KRON4)

Michael Yaki, former San Francisco supervisor and current member of U.S. Civil Rights Commission, is accused of violating city’s lobbyist law. (KRON4)

Former San Francisco Supervisor Michael Yaki has agreed to pay the city $75,000 over nine years to settle claims that he lobbied for a fire equipment manufacturer. The city attorney claims Yaki violated the city’s lobbyist ordinance — which he voted for as a supervisor in 2000 — at least 70 times.

In a lawsuit filed last December, the City Attorney Dennis Herrera alleged that Yaki “flouted the lobbyist ordinance in every way.” The suit claims that Yaki:

“spent over a year lobbying Board members, the Mayor’s Office, members of the Fire Commission, and the Fire Department on behalf of his client, Rescue Air Systems, Inc. Yet despite making more than 70 lobbying contacts, Yaki … failed to register as a lobbyist, failed to disclose who was paying him to lobby and how much he was paid, and failed to disclose any of his lobbying contacts. With his identity as a paid lobbyist undisclosed, Yaki sometimes misrepresented who he worked for.”

Yaki, a lawyer and political consultant who served as supervisor from 1996 to 2001, neither admits nor denies the allegations in the settlement. He currently serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

The lobbying claims center on a San Carlos company, Rescue Air Systems, that is the exclusive manufacturer of a firefighter air replenishment system, meant to enable firefighters to refill their portable oxygen tanks while fighting fires in highrise buildings. Starting in 2004 San Francisco required such systems in all new buildings more than 75 feet tall.

However, in 2012, the city’s Fire Commission began exploring allowing developers to use different methods of oxygen delivery. The lawsuit says Rescue Air Systems then hired Yaki to convince city officials to stick with the existing fire code. The Fire Commission did delay consideration of the change. But despite the emails, texts, phone calls and in-person meetings that the lawsuit claims Yaki employed, the Board of Supervisors last September did vote to allow alternative oxygen systems.

Yaki’s lawyer, Stuart Gasner, declined to comment on the allegations. Yaki had previously told KQED in an email that his work for Rescue Air Systems was legal:

“There is an exception within the Ordinance allowing attorney representation, and as an attorney I worked within the parameters of the ordinance. My client retained several lobbying firms to handle lobbying on the ordinance when it came to the Board of Supervisors. I look forward to positively resolving this matter with the City Attorney.”

Under the proposed agreement, Yaki will register as a lobbyist, and file the monthly lobbyist disclosures required by law and complete a lobbyist training session. The deal must still be approved by the city’s Ethics Commission and Board of Supervisors.

The Ethics Commission will also review a separate, smaller settlement with retired state Fire Marshal Ruben Grijalva on allegations of lobbying for the same air system vendor. The agreement would require Grijalva to register as a lobbyist retroactively, pay the required $500 registration fee and complete a lobbyist training session.

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Category: Law, Politics

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About the Author ()

Journalist and media producer specializing in public health, mental health and immigration. Multimedia editor at TED Books and regular contributor to KQED radio. Stories in various forms (words, photos, audio and video) have appeared in the Atlantic online, New York Times, Boston Globe, Sacramento Bee, and with the Center for Investigative Reporting. Fluent Spanish speaker (can’t resist a good salsa beat) and fourth-generation San Franciscan. Go Giants! Reach Grace Rubenstein at grubenstein@KQED.org.

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