General Questions Regarding the Lobbying Ordinance
This Frequently Asked Questions page contains answers to some general questions that the Ethics Commission has received regarding the City's Lobbying Ordinance. For more information concerning the Lobbying Ordinance, please visit the Lobbyist portion of our website or refer to our lobbying-related Fact Sheets.
- Can my firm or organization register as a lobbying entity before it is required to?
- Are labor organizations exempt from the Lobbying Ordinance?
- Am I lobbying if the discussion involves a County or Port matter?
- Who is considered a "City Official" for purposes of the Lobbying Ordinance?
- Who in my firm or organization is considered an "officer" for purposes of the Lobbying Ordinance?
- Am I lobbying if my communications with City Officials are limited to negotiations concerning an existing contract?
- If I contact a City Official simply to set up a meeting, is that lobbying?
- If my firm or organization was merely monitoring a municipal decision during the quarter, is that decision reportable?
Yes. A firm may register as a Lobbying Firm before it has a single compensated lobbying contact, and a company or organization may register as an Organization Lobbyist before it has 10 contacts within a 60 day period. Keep in mind that by registering, the entity is committing to filing quarterly reports for the entire year (unless it officially terminates before the commencement of a reporting period).
No. Although such organizations are not exempt, many of their activities may fall within one of several potentially applicable exemptions. Activities that involve establishing a memorandum of understanding [MOU] between the City and an employee organization (i.e., meet and confer negotiations) or the administration of that MOU are exempt, as are Civil Service Commission proceedings and communications regarding working conditions that relate to the MOU. On the other hand, seeking to influence decisions unrelated to the above exemptions (e.g., how to spend TOT funds), would be subject to the Lobbying Ordinance.
The City’s Lobbying Ordinance is limited to "City" decisions, i.e., it applies only to decisions that concern the City of San Diego and its agencies (Centre City Development Corporation; San Diego Convention Center Corporation; San Diego Data Processing Corporation; Southeast Development Corporation; and the San Diego Housing Commission). So generally, the Lobbying Ordinance will not apply to County or Port matters. There may be instances, however, where the City or a City agency will make a decision regarding a County or Port matter. Contacts you have with "City Officials" concerning such matters will be subject to the Lobbying Ordinance.
The term "City Official" is defined to include any of the following officers or employees of the City, which includes all City agencies, who hold one of the following positions: elected officeholder; Council staff member; Council Committee Consultant; Council Representative; Assistant City Attorney; Deputy City Attorney; General Counsel; Chief; Assistant Chief; Deputy Chief; Assistant Deputy Chief; City Manager; Assistant City Manager; Deputy City Manager; Management Assistant to City Manager; Treasurer; Auditor and Comptroller; Independent Budget Analyst; Budget/Legislative Analyst; Financial Operations Manager; City Clerk; Labor Relations Manager; Retirement Administrator; Director; Assistant Director; Deputy Director; Assistant Deputy Director; Chief Executive Officer; Chief Operating Officer; Chief Financial Officer; President; and Vice-President. City Official also means any member of a City commission, board, or committee whose members are required to file a statement of economic interests pursuant to the California Political Reform Act. A list of these entities is posted on the Ethics Commission’s website.
The term "officer" is limited to the compensated decision-making individuals at the top of an entity's organizational structure. It includes a CEO, CFO, COO, Executive Director, President, Vice-President, and similar high-ranking positions. It does not include anyone whose services are provided on a volunteer basis.
If the contact involves trying to enter into a new agreement with the City or to convince the City to extend an existing contract, then it is subject to disclosure under the Lobbying Ordinance. On the other hand, if the City and your organization or client has an existing contract and the contact with a City Official is for the purpose of working out the details of that contract, then it would not be lobbying, and such contacts would be exempt. Thus, the answer depends on whether or not your organization or client has already been awarded the contract or if, on the other hand, it is seeking a new contract or extending an existing contract (for purposes of the Lobbying Ordinance, extending an existing contract is no different than entering a new contract).
A communication with a City Official solely for the purpose of scheduling a meeting is a ministerial action, and would not be considered a lobbying contact. (The meeting itself will constitute a lobbying contact if you attempt to influence a municipal decision during the meeting.) An initial communication to set up a meeting is not a lobbying contact unless it evolves into an effort to try to influence a City decision.
No. If a Lobbying Firm did not lobby on a particular municipal decision during the quarter, it will identify the applicable client on Schedule A-2, but need not report anything concerning the decision. If an Organization Lobbyist did not lobby on a particular municipal decision during the quarter, it will not report anything concerning the decision.