Executive Director - City of San Diego Ethics Commission

Position Title: Executive Director
Compensation: $150,000 – $180,000 annually DOE/Neg.
Reports To: 7-member independent Board of Commissions
Direct Reports: 5 (Investigative Program Manager, Audit Program Manager, Education Program. Managers (2), Program Coordinator)

The City of San Diego:

The City of San Diego is home to over 1.4 million people, making it the eighth largest city in the United States and the second largest in California. Its strong economy, diverse population, prestigious educational institutions, unsurpassed quality of life, and world-renowned location makes it the ideal place to work, live, and play. As one of the region’s largest employers, the City of San Diego has a combined Fiscal Year 2020 operating budget of approximately $4.3 billion and employs approximately 11,800 staff. For additional information regarding the City of San Diego, please visit: www.sandiego.gov.

The Ethics Commission:

Since its formation nearly 20 years ago, the City of San Diego’s Ethics Commission has proudly served as an independent City department. Its mission is to preserve public confidence in City government through education, advice, and enforcement of local governmental ethics laws. The Commission’s responsibilities include:

  • Providing training and education regarding governmental ethics laws to City Officials and employees, as well as candidates for City office and their staffs.
  • Issuing formal and informal advice and opinions to any person regarding the governmental ethics laws within the Commission’s jurisdiction.
  • Reviewing campaign, lobbying, and conflict of interest disclosure statements.
  • Proposing procedures for conducting audits of campaign, lobbying, and conflict of interest disclosure forms.
  • Investigating and enforcing violations of City governmental ethics laws.
  • Reviewing the City’s existing governmental ethics laws and proposing updates.

The Commission’s jurisdiction is limited to the City’s governmental ethics laws, contained in the Municipal Code. These laws address the following:

  • Campaign laws: These laws require City candidates and committees to file financial disclosure forms with the City Clerk, to abide by certain restrictions when accepting campaign contributions, and to include “paid for by” disclosures on campaign advertisements.
  • Lobbying laws: These laws require that firms and organizations file disclosure forms with the City Clerk to describe their lobbying activities, and to refrain from giving gifts worth more than $10 per month to City Officials.
  • Ethics laws: These laws require high-level City Officials, including elected officials and managerial-level employees, to file personal financial disclosure forms with the City Clerk and refrain from participating in City decisions that could impact their personal financial interests.

For additional information regarding the Ethics Commission, please visit: www.sandiego.gov/ethics

Position Summary:

After 17 years of exceptional leadership, the Commission’s current Executive Director will retire in February of 2021. It is envisaged that her successor will be hired in late October or November of 2020, allowing for a comprehensive 3-month handover and transition period to the new Executive Director. Reporting to 7 Commissioners, the future Executive Director will join a well-established and efficient team, which has a shared passion for preserving transparency, accountability, and trust in local government. This position is responsible for the Commission’s overall success, including day-to-day operations such as:

  • Conducting preliminary reviews of all complaints filed with the Ethics Commission.
  • Overseeing investigations and enforcement of violations.
  • Overseeing audits.
  • Providing advice to City Officials, lobbyists, candidates, and political committees.
  • Reviewing existing governmental ethics laws and proposing reforms.
  • Providing training to those subject to the City’s governmental ethics laws.

The Executive Director is a highly visible role, often representing and speaking on behalf of the Commission to the media and directly to the public. It is essential for the Executive Director to prioritize and promote integrity, transparency, and accountability at all times. This individual must be driven and independent yet recognize the position’s connectivity within a complex and diverse ecosystem of local government, which is continually changing and adapting to meet the needs of its citizens. This position requires someone who understands legal systems, maintains an apolitical stance, and appreciates the impact of their actions on the long-term well-being of the community. The Executive Director oversees a team of 5 staff members and an annual operating budget of $1.3M.

Priorities within the first year include:

  • Partnering with the outgoing Executive Director through a 90-day handover period.
  • Developing a deep understanding of the laws under the Commission’s jurisdiction.
  • Learning the role of each team member and developing strong working relationships.
  • Planning for the potential expansion of Commission’s jurisdiction to include 750 classified City employees and ensuring the organization has the staffing and resources to support this increase.

Priorities for years 2-5 include:

  • Preparing the organization for the possible implementation of public financing for city elections.
  • Providing input on the drafting of rules and regulations around public financing.
  • Staying attuned to any changes in state laws pertinent to the Commission.


The core focus areas of this position are:

  • Providing direct support to the Commissioners.
  • Educating those within the Commission’s jurisdiction on the City’s governmental ethics laws.
  • Supervising staff and promoting an empowering, supportive work environment.
  • Overseeing audits and investigations on behalf of the Commission.

The Executive Director will have a broad range of responsibilities under these focus areas, which include:

  • Directing all aspects of investigative and enforcement activities, including evaluating complaints, supervising investigations, preparing investigative reports, conducting settlement negotiations, drafting stipulated settlements, preparing hearing-related documents, and working with other governmental agencies that have concurrent jurisdiction.
  • Researching local and state history of comparable enforcement matters and advising Commissioners of relevant findings.
  • Overseeing the audit program, including participating in post-audit conferences and supervising audit report preparation.
  • Directing all aspects of legislative activities, including identifying necessary updates, preparing staff reports, reviewing draft Municipal Code amendments, communicating with the Office of the City Attorney, and presenting proposed amendments to City Council and Council committees.
  • Coordinating all aspects of Commission meetings, including preparing agendas, meeting minutes, and staff reports.
  • Overseeing all aspects of education programs including preparing formal advisory opinions, providing informal advice, preparing training materials, and conducting live trainings.
  • Communicating with media representatives concerning Commission activities.
  • Presenting to City Council multiple times a year.
  • Hiring, training and supervising Commission staff as well as contract attorneys.
  • Overseeing all administrative and operational activities including budgeting, contracting, purchasing, responding to Public Records Act requests, and preparing Annual Reports.

Attributes & Work Style:

  • Mission-focused: dedicated to furthering trust, transparency, and accountability in local government, and doing so in a collaborative, unbiased, trustworthy, and ethical manner.
  • Transparent: collaborates to empower others; shares information appropriately and focuses on educating the Commission’s various stakeholders.
  • Emotionally Intelligent: utilizes strong interpersonal skills and the ability to deal effectively and tactfully with a wide variety of people in sensitive situations.
  • Strategic: excellent problem-solving skills, with the ability to proactively identify problems and develop viable solutions.
  • Communicative: possesses strong written and oral communication skills; an effective public speaker and representative for the Commission.
  • Direct: employs a communication style that is diplomatic yet straightforward and focused; not afraid of having the difficult conversations.
  • Confidence: comfortable leading a team of driven professionals; comfortable and effective at working with Commissioners and other high-profile officials.
  • Analytical: uses facts and research to support their advice and opinions; carefully studies issues, laws, and emerging trends; highly detail oriented.
  • Proactive: demonstrates strong personal initiative and the ability to drive projects through to completion.
  • Tactful: uses appropriate discretion and maintains an even-tempered and measured disposition at all times.
  • Flexible: able to work evenings and weekends as required.

Education & Experience:

  • Demonstrated experience managing and supervising a high-performing team.
  • Thorough understanding of government and politics, and a high degree of political acumen.
  • Bachelor’s degree required; legal and regulatory training preferred.
  • Demonstrated experience analyzing and interpreting government laws and regulations, ideally governmental ethics laws in California (campaign, lobbying, and ethics laws).
  • Experience working with public officials and/or in the public sector, in addition to working with a board, commission, and/or city council.
  • Ability to communicate clearly and directly, both in writing and orally.
  • A successful track record of building trust and confidence in the community.
  • Maintains a strongly unbiased and apolitical stance.
  • Experience with synthesizing and presenting information for educational purposes.

The City of San Diego has an active Equal Opportunity/ADA Program for employment and vigorously supports diversity in the workplace.

For more information or to apply, please contact:

Sarah Thompson, Director

Trevor Blair, Principal