A member of the still-dormant Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Board says that her fellowship at Harvard for the past three months is no impediment to her obligations to the watchdog agency which has yet to meet. The fellowship continues until June.
Kathy Buechel confirms her fellowship there. It took a week of leaving messages by phone and e-mail at both Harvard and in Pittsburgh before I heard back from her. Buechel told me by phone this week that she hadn't responded to the messages last week because she was on vacation. She says she spends two-to-three workdays a week here in Pittsburgh, and weekends as well. It's a nearly 600 mile commute one-way to Cambridge, MA, where Buechel is a Visiting Practitioner at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University.
"Pittsburgh's Ethics Hearing Board still hasn't held one meeting since its five members were confirmed last July". That was my report in late January, which included a sound clip of Mayor Ravenstahl telling me back at the time that "they are going to be meeting here in the very near future".
It's still true today.
The city's Ethics Hearing Board is supposed to investigate allegations of misconduct by elected officials or city government employees.
Even though David Scott--the only attorney named to the panel--resigned around the end of 2006, Bob O'Connor's appointment still hasn't been replaced. Mayor O'Connor and City Council had decided last spring to revive the five-member panel that's been in the deep freeze since the 1992.
Following my inquiries in late January, the mayor's office said the ethics board would hold it's first meeting the following week. It did not. There was, however, an orientation held for just two members. There weren't enough present for the quorum needed by law to hold a meeting. (PG, Trib, this blog.)
This has been going on since last spring, as you can see here.
We reported in February that Mayor Ravenstahl's office says "he has the executive power to call the meeting".
The other ethics board members--Sister Patrice Hughes, the Rev. John C. Welch, and Rabbi Dr. Daniel Schiff--all tell me they have had no contact from the mayor's office or from each other since my last Channel 4 Action News report. All say that they are waiting for the Mayor to take the lead.
When Buechel did return my call this week, she revealed that the city had contacted her during the same week that I was leaving messages trying to reach her. The city's call was to tentatively schedule her orientation by the law department for today.