Friday, April 20, 2007

Ethics Board: Closer, But No Quorum

This post is based on my Channel 4 Action News report.
I hope to add a podcast this weekend.
The Trib's story is at this link. The PG's coverage is here.

The allegations against Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle prompted city council and the late Mayor Bob O'Connor to revive Pittsburgh's ethics board, but the panel still hasn't managed to start its job since it was confirmed last summer. Today, some members gathered to try to get things in gear.

Those criminal charges against Councilwoman Carlisle don't appear to be on the radar of the ethics board members, at least not yet. They did, however, answer some reporter questions about the job facing them when they finally do get a quorum and start dealing with the business of city ethics.

It was the kickback conspiracy charges against Twanda Carlisle filed by District Attorney Stephen Zappala that prompted the mayor to ask the city ethics board to try again to hold it's first meeting. Today, they still couldn't muster a quorum, but the two members and one nominee who did make it don't seem inclined to take up the Carlisle case.

Sister Patrice Hughes said "that sort of has been turned over to Steve Zappala's office. Would we be beating a dead horse if we picked this up?"

Her fellow ethics board member Kathy Beuchel said "I think you look to what's important for this commission to do going forward."

Sister Hughes did answer that they could look at spending by city officials: "that's a critical issue, and I think we've seen examples, terrible examples of expenses that really are not promoting good government, that are self-serving. And that would be something that should be looked at".

But Hughes, Beuchel, and ethics nominee Penny Zacharias, are all more focused on teaching city officials and workers about ethics than launching investigations. Bbeuchel spoke of "charting a course that has a strong education and prevention component to it, so that all of the city employees and those that are considered public interested can really have the right context."

Zacharias said "we have a great opportunity to open up all aspects of the authorities of the board. Education is obviously a very important one of those, though."

Two ethics board members are out of the country, preventing the panel from having a quorum--at least until Mayor Ravenstahl's nominee is confirmed by pittsburgh city council next week. Rev. John Welch is in Canada and Rabbi Dr. Daniel Schiff is in Israel, according to an aide to the mayor.

Here's a link tracking back my previous posts on the ethics board. So far, the Pittsburgh Channel version of my story does not include the video.


Char said...

Much like our need for two oversight boards because Pittsburgh is just too special for only one .....We may need a second Ethics Board to keep tabs on the one flailing about now.

Adam said...

So let me make sure I understand this...the ethics board thinks that if only Tawanda Carlisle had gone to a class to teach her that stealing the city's money was unethical...THEN this could have been avoided.

EdHeath said...

I think you meant to say, “until Zacharias is confirmed next week” in your last paragraph. The interim Mayor is already running unopposed and doesn't need to bee confirmed by council...

Is it possible some other members should be nominated? Could we have alternates? Seems like at least three members have pressing commitments outside the city…

Bob Mayo said...

To Ed Heath...

Thanks for catching the editing error. (Argh. I was called in to start work at 3:30am Friday. Perhaps I shouldn't have been trying to blog Friday night.) I corrected it to "Mayor Ravenstahl's nominee", which I believe was my original intent.

In answer to your question, I did not get the impression that the two members who were absent on Friday will be out of the country for an extended period. Kathy Beuchel says she is in town two to three weekdays in addition to weekends.

Char said...

Question: Were Sister Patrice and Beuchel both nominated by the mayor? Just want to put things into perspective as they start to unfold. If they ever do unfold.

Bob Mayo said...

To Char...

The Mayor gets two direct picks.
Bob O'Connor's were:
-Kathy Buechel, and
-Attorney David Scott, who resigned several months ago.

Mayor Ravenstahl picked Penny Zacharias to fill the vacancy left by Scott.
Council will vote to confirm her this week.

The mayor also gets to pick three from nine names submitted by City Council.

From council's suggestions, Mayor O'Connor picked:
-Sister Patrice Hughes, suggested by Jim Motznik,
-Rabbi Daniel Schiff, suggested by Bill Peduto, and
-Rev. John Welch, suggested by Tonya Payne.

Those three nominations were then confirmed by council last July.