Saturday, June 9, 2007

What's The Ethics Board Up To?

ittsburgh's Ethics Hearing Board has plenty on its "to do" list.

Friday was the board's second meeting. During that session:

• It made public a letter it received from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. In that letter, the mayor calls on the panel to examine the case of Redd-Up Crew members who wore campaign t-shirts backing Councilman Jeff Koch while on city time. Board members decided to seek more information on the Public Works Department dress code, as well as a definition of the "political activity" prohibited by law for city employees during work hours.

• Councilman Bill Peduto urged the board to come up with ways to strengthen Pittsburgh's ethics code. Peduto addressed the board during its public comment period. He told the members "there is a great need for this board. You serve as the watchdog to keep ethical behavior within city government--as long as you use the power." Peduto pledged to introduce legislation to strengthen the city's ethics law, based on the board members recommendations.

• The ethics board went into executive session to privately discuss a citizen complaint against a city employee. It's been previously reported that Jason Phillips intended to file a complaint against Koch staffer Eileen Conroy for allegedly making a campaign call from the councilman's government office.

Some ethics board members said once again that they want to emphasize ethics education in addition to enforcement. When questioned by reporters, board chair Sister Patrice Hughes insisted that doesn't mean a de-emphasis of the panel's enforcement duties. "We can subpoena people, we can investigate. No, I don't mean to infer in any way that we are watering down the responsibilities that we have, and our commitment to be very credible servants of this city", said Hughes.

This meeting of the ethics board was moved from City Council Chamber to a room at 200 Ross Street. A check with council's office revealed no conflicting event to explain the move, however. Peduto urged the ethics board to use Council Chamber for future meetings, so they can be cablecast.

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