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Ethical scrutiny on those pushing Ed Lee to run for San Francisco mayor

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Dozens of volunteers, consultants and campaign staff who were involved with committees to get Mayor Ed Lee to run for mayor should be barred from joining his campaign should he run for office, according to San Francisco’s top ethics watchdog.

The committee trying to recruit Lee, Progress for All, has disbanded in the public eye but could still be the subject of queries by the Ethics Commission, which regulates local campaigns.

In a report released Thursday, Ethics Commission Director John St. Croix warns that if the backers of the independent Run, Ed, Run campaign were to work with Lee on his own campaign, it would violate rules that separate candidates and third-party campaigns that operate independently of the candidate.

Lee is expected to announce his decision after the weekend, and his public comments hint that he’s leaning more and more toward running for office.

Prominent Lee backers who volunteered their time for Progress for All include Chinatown power broker Rose Pak, Planning Commission President Christina Olague, Chinatown Community Development Center Executive Director Gordon Chin and Assistant District Attorney Victor Hwang.

Also barred from participating in a Lee campaign is Library Commission member Michael Breyer, whose Draft Ed Lee campaign aired commercials during Sunday talk shows.

But St. Croix specifically mentions Progress For All’s campaign manager, Enrique Pearce, as not being able to work on Lee’s campaign. Records show Pearce is still owed more than $20,000 for his work on the campaign, a cost that must be paid within 180 days.

Pearce was unavailable for comment on Thursday but has said in the past that the campaign followed the law in a situation where there is no declared candidate.

The party ultimately responsible for fines won’t be any of the power brokers purported to be behind the campaign, but the treasurer. Documents show that the campaign switched treasurers last month, from Ceazar Cabreros to Ivy Lee.

Appointees to the Ethics Commission are scheduled Monday to talk about St. Croix’s report and may vote on whether to endorse his findings. The commission may also determine if rules need to be changed or clarified.

Supervisor John Avalos on Thursday said he may look into legislative action to prevent such a draft campaign from happening again.

“I think there’s a loophole there that’s been found,” Avalos said. “I think in the spirit of the ethics legislation we would not want to have a situation like that.”

bbegin@sfexaminer.com