Gwyneth Borden, who has served on two city commissions over the past 15 years and was most recently the vice chair of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority’s Board of Directors, has resigned following her admission that she illegally lobbied city staff and officials.
“I have decided to end my career in public service,” Borden said on Tuesday, saying she had resigned over the weekend. “I don’t want to be a distraction for the critical time in SFMTA’s histor, and I need to focus on building my company, focusing on my family and its financial future.”
Starting in 2019 and into 2020, Borden was paid $12,500 as a “consultant” for the Italian eatery Fiorella, which was seeking to legalize a non-compliant outdoor deck at its Sunset location. Borden sent 32 emails to city staff, planning commissioners, and one city supervisor, seeking support for a permit at the restaurant.
The Ethics Commission last month censured the commissioner for breaking city law, with ethics commissioners weighing whether to fine her $37,500 — triple what she made on the lobbying, the maximum penalty — for the lapse.
Mission Local was first to report the news of her illegal lobbying.
San Francisco law forbids anyone from contacting city staff or officials to “influence a government decision” unless they are registered as a lobbyist and document their contacts with the city. Sitting commissioners are forbidden from any contact whatsoever, even if they are registered lobbyists.
Borden, however, was contacting city staff and officials while unregistered — a double violation that ethics officials cited when deciding whether to exact the maximum penalty.
Borden admitted to breaking the city’s rules, both to the Ethics Commission and in an interview, but said she did not know her actions were illegal. She also noted that she was not hiding her actions; she was listed publicly as a project sponsor in planning documents.
“I made a mistake, I should have known, I misunderstood that I shouldn’t have contacted another city department at the time,” she said on April 18. “Dem’s the rules.”
On Tuesday, she called the Ethic Commission’s decision “disappointing,” and its rules “many and non-consistent,” adding she did not want to induce criticism of the transit agency or the mayor.
“I am not going to be the reason the agency doesn’t get the support they need,” she said. “I am also not going to be a pawn for those seeking to go after the mayor.”
Borden was appointed to the SFMTA commission by Mayor Ed Lee in 2014, and subsequently re-appointed by Mayor London Breed; she served as chair of the board before serving most recently as vice chair. Prior, she served on the Planning Commission from 2008 to 2014. She is also the CEO and founder of a one-year-old financial start-up, Remynt.