They all are guilty as the day is long. Guilty of fumbles in public trust. Guilty of padding their own "nests."
City Council 'consultants' funds build political support: "An activist wonk. A tree trimmer. Some buddies who can do office work. A political backer. All have been considered professional services consultants under Pittsburgh City Council's loose spending guidelines.We don't need anything more in terms of "built in controls" that go beyond the city's charter. We don't need a third or fourth oversight group as we already have TWO and neither of them are doing a good job.
Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle, whose spending has been referred to county prosecutors and the State Ethics Commission, is council's top spender on consultants. Since 2002, she has steered $134,300 to two dozen private individuals for services, including a half-dozen who were also involved in her 2003 election campaign.
A review of other council members' spending shows that none steered as much money to consultants as she did. But most, at one time or another, have used city funds to pay a friend, buy something for a key community group, or even retain a lawyer to intervene in a private legal fight. The funds have served to build political support.
All council members interviewed yesterday agreed that more controls were needed, but defended their own spending."
What we need is already built into the city charter and has been DEAD. The city is to have a "Ethics Review Board" -- but Mayor Murphy saw to its closure. It was shut down as new appointments were never made to the five person board.
This is the same ploy that crippled the "Citzens Police Review Board." They kill the body by starvation. Don't feed it new members and appointements.
Yesterday a KQV Poll asked about the re-creation of the Ethics Review Board and a huge majority of listeners (both callers and with the on-line clicks) wanted it to come back. The numbers of the poll won't be released until the end of the week, if you didn't catch them on the closing comment at 7 pm. (sadly)
The City's GOP Committee wrote a letter to new Mayor, Bob O'Connor, in January 2006 asking for him to restart the ethics board too. That was the right thing to do -- as we have a new administration. We need the new mayor to fix ills of the past administration.
But there has been no reply on this topic, to the best of our knowledge.
Bob was part of the problem when he was City Council President. That's when the ethics board died -- also on his watch. So, I do hold out hope -- as I'm thinking about the positive. But, I'm not holding my breath.
Paul Sentner, an activist who helped to put an end to the ugly "WE HAV" program, emailed me today with another great idea. He'd like to see KQV Radio take up the cause of getting an Ombudsman put into the fabric of city and county government.
The new County Charter had an Ombudsman component that was taken out of the plan at the last moment before it went to the people for ratification. That quick switch was under the watchful eyes of Michael Lamb.
Meanwhile, Bill Peduto is all hyped about sharing his "template" for revealing how his office spends its taxpayer money, nearly $100,000 annually, or nearly a half-million dollars per term.
That was above and beyond the cool $1-million each office got as part of the "neighborhood needs money" from not too distance years. The City's Republican Party, and I too, had called for the ending of those pork accounts as well -- years ago.
The neighborhood needs money SCAM was (and is to this day) a joke. It is the personification of a big fat corruption, cronie, $9-million ploy to make the rich richer and the poor poorer -- all while keeping power right where it sat.
If any news organization wants to do a real investigation, begin to look at that money and miss-spending. Then perhaps the investigators (legal authorities) could put a few others (WHICH ONES) out of office and into the limelight of public review and eventual convictions.
First things first: Re-start the ethics board.
If William Peduto really wants to be candid with public disclosure on spending, he needs to re-awaken a past project I was involved with -- campaign finance reform. An advisory group was pulled together in 2004-2005. We had meetings. We issued a report to the councilman. But, the report was never made public. He sat on it. He didn't do anything.
Part of my suggested solution that came about as a result of those discussions is a transparent PAC account. PAC accounts need to be transparent, just as office accounts. And, citizen / voters need to see these funds come and go as well. And, the transparent PAC account goes way, way, way beyond what is being suggested as a 'template.' We should see real-time movement of money, not just what someone types into a computer form.
Cooking the books will be harder with Transparent PAC Accounts -- and TRANSPARENT Officeholder Accounts.