Saturday, November 15, 2008

PG: "City Ethics Panel Skirts Law With Private Meeting"

From today's Post-Gazette:

The task of the city's ethics board is to "advance transparency and accountability" in city government, according to a rewrite the board approved yesterday of city rules on gifts, tickets and charitable events.

That being the case, it was ironic that the board met behind closed doors to discuss the new rules.

Sister Patrice Hughes, the board's chair, said the five board members were "very careful" not to debate the regulations, which they were given in advance. "All it provided was clarity. There were no decisions made" in private, she said.

City Solicitor George Specter, who also sat in on the closed-door session, said the board members have been getting "input from various aspects of the city" on the regulations and were merely "discussing their thoughts" about them.

Those explanations didn't pass muster with legal experts at the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, who monitor open meetings and open records matters statewide.
It was 13 months ago this week that I began my persistent exchanges with Ethics Board members and the City Solicitor's office over this:

Pittsburgh's Ethics Board is still refusing to release its secret memo from the City Law Department. The secret? The Law Department's advice on how to obey Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act--the law mandating that meetings be open to the public.

You can track the serpentine tale by clicking this link. Tracing the entries backward or forward, I think it will give you some insights into the history there.

At the time, the most interest the PG could muster in the Sunshine Act as interpreted by the City Solicitor's office was in this satirical turn.


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