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Willie Brown to Restaurants Named in Healthy SF Scandal: "Ignore [Your] Attorneys' Advice"

Former SF Mayor Willie Brown's column for the Chronicle is usually a straightforward restaurant travelogue, but this week, he got political, exhorting the restaurants accused of pocketing Healthy San Francisco surcharges to step forward and talk to the City Attorney's office directly. "My advice is that [restaurants] ignore their attorneys' advice and go to the City Attorney's office and lay out everything that is going on?the City Attorney's office won't do anything if the money is all accounted for."

Brown's reasoning, however, seems a little convoluted. At one point in the article, he notes the common complaint from named restaurateurs like Michael Mina, that they've kept all Healthy SF funds they didn't spend in a separate account designated for employee health care. "Now, the question is, what should he do with it?" But only two paragraphs later, he insists that "if restaurateurs collected money from the patron and didn't use it for employee health care, then they committed fraud."

Brown suggests that restaurants either abandon the 3% Healthy SF surcharge at the bottom of the bill or broaden the statement to include all SF mandates, not just health care. "They don't need to worry, as long as they provided health care. They don't have to have any account; they just need to pay the bills." As for solutions to money already collected, however, he only suggests visiting the City Attorney, which hasn't necessarily been a cost-free endeavor for restaurants that tried to comply. Patxi's, for example, ended up owing the city a $15K penalty in addition to the $205K they returned to employees.

His ultimate conclusion: "My comments will obviously piss the restaurants' lawyers off." And, apparently, perplex the rest of us.

· Talking to the City Attorney About Healthy San Francisco [Inside Scoop]
· Have Restaurants Been Pocketing Healthy SF Fees? [~ ESF ~]