Jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission

What does “jurisdiction” mean?

The term “jurisdiction” refers to the specific set of laws that an agency or organization has the authority to regulate. The San Diego Municipal Code limits the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction such that it may only give advice and conduct investigations with regard to certain laws.

What laws does the Ethics Commission have jurisdiction over?

The Commission’s jurisdiction is limited to the City’s campaign, lobbying, and ethics laws. These laws are contained in the Municipal Code, and are referred to as the City’s governmental ethics laws. In plain language, 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.

Additional FAQs are available for these three areas of law.

What laws are outside the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission?

The Ethics Commission does not have jurisdiction over:

  • unethical or unprofessional behavior;
  • false or misleading statements;
  • deceptive campaign materials;
  • the placement or removal of campaign signs;
  • allegations of City employee incompetence;
  • "classified” City employees (i.e., rank and file employees, including police officers and parking enforcement officers);
  • members of community planning groups and town councils;
  • anything related to school districts;
  • elections outside the City of San Diego (such as the City of Chula Vista, the County of San Diego);
  • open meeting laws (Brown Act).

Where do I file a complaint concerning an ethical issue not within the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction?

Do not file it with the Ethics Commission. The Commission is not authorized to conduct investigations concerning issues outside its jurisdiction. If relevant, consider submitting your complaint to the City's hotline for waste, fraud and abuse. Complaints regarding police misconduct can be filed with the Citizens’ Review Board on Police Practices. You may also want to search the City’s website to find the City department responsible for the subject matter of your complaint.