Saturday, April 21, 2007

Ethics Board Podcast...& A Look At Its Powers

Update: I've redone the podcast, organizing it by topic
instead of using the raw audio.

As promised, here's a link to a podcast based on Q&A with city ethics hearing board members Kathy Beuchel & Sister Patrice Hughes and board nominee Penny Zacharias.

All three are very circumspect in their answers. They emphasize what they see as the educational and service role of the Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Board.

That's not to say the board will lack powers and duties to investigate alleged ethical violations and hold hearings on complaints.

The city code gives them the authority to issue subpoenas and take sworn testimony, require evidence, and issue orders and penalties.

The code makes it clear they can launch investigations on their own, with or without a complaint.

Section 197.12 (a) (1) (INVESTIGATIONS) says:

"Upon a complaint signed under penalty of perjury by any individual or upon the Ethics Hearing Board's own motion, the City Solicitor shall conduct a preliminary inquiry into any alleged violation of the city provisions." [Emphasis added.]

(The city's ethics handbook is available online. It reviews the city's code of conduct and the powers of the ethics hearing board.)


Bram Reichbaum said...

Let's say I want to investigate the city code and city charter. I want to find out who wrote certain selections, and what people were saying about the city while they were doing it.

What would you use as your research tools?

Bob Mayo said...

City Council minutes would provide information about sponsorship and amendments, and might provide some summary of discussion.

The City Charter includes the "Commentary to Charter", starting on page 27. It's avalable online at this link.

I don't know if it would provide the detail you're looking for. The online record of council minutes only goes back a few years. I don't know how far back the city clerk keeps written records. There's always the clip library maintained by newspapers from pre-internet days. I don't know if those are still available to the public. Old newspapers used to be available on microfilm at the Carnegie Library in Oakland and Pitt's Hillman Library.

Former City Councilman Dan Cohen was the sponsor of the city's ethics act.

... and there's also the city's ethics handbook.