Friday, November 09, 2007

Ethics Hearing Board of Pittsburgh meets. Everything they do should be turned on its head.

Once again I punished myself and went down to another Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Baord meeting at 10 am today (Friday, Nov 9, 2007). This little blog of mine, I'm going to let it shine.

In the bible, we learn that it is a stupid -- if not a sin -- to put a candle under a basket. Praise the Lord. We learned that next year's meetings of the Ethics Hearing Board will NOT be made closed to the public on an every other month basis as they talked about last month.

I suggested to them that we need more ethics in the city, not less. The Ethics Hearing Board should meet every week -- not every month.

In other developments, I told them that they need to set their record straight. The Ethics Hearing Board was not formed one year ago, as one of the members spoke about in the meeting. Sophie was the Mayor of Pittsburgh when the Ethics Hearing Board came into being. That was about 15 years ago.

Since the board began, we've come to discover that there have been four complaints filed to the Ethics Hearing Board from citizens. I filed three in September. Those matters were hinted at in the October meeting. And, as of now, still, after the November meeting, there is no progress on those matters. They have not been put on an agenda. They have not been talked about by the board. Nothing.

When a citizen files a complaint to the Ethics Hearing Board -- if they are doing their jobs -- you'd expect a reply of some sort. I do. I did. I am waiting. I have gotten nothing.

In no uncertain terms, the gag order that goes upon citizens who file a complaint undermines the entire process. And, it is unconstitutional. Rights of a citizen to free speech should never be taken away.

There is a larger book, not the bible, in this case, but the Constitution, that rules.

i want the Ethics Hearing Board to stand tall and ask that city council and the mayor change the code so as to strike down all elements of confidentiality plus the powers of the board to dish out liabilities and punishments.

In other matters, the head of the Ethics Hearing Board, Sister Patrice, is going to meet with City Council President Doug Shields today at 1 pm. After the meeting I ran to Doug's office to try to give him a head's up. He wasn't in -- and all the staffers were busy.

I'll send him an email next, as an open letter.

The Ethics Hearing Board is putting in a request to City Council for an annual budget of $40,000.

I didn't have the heart to tell them that the 2008 budget had already been approved by the OVERLORDS and that the city was broke.

The Ethics Hearing Board is trying to expand government and spend more taxpayer money. I object.

The members of the Ethics Hearing Board would like to go to the Local Government Academy. Fine. They should go. It is a great program. But, they each can pay for their own admission. And, don't go asking for a foundation or the church / temple to pay -- as we'll encounter another goofy situation with admission fees being covered by outside sources. This time it is not golf, but a class.

It seems that the Ethics Hearing Board members are convinced that they need to bring in experts on Ethics to give them training to do their jobs. They are hungry for insights. They want a training budget.

They are in over their head! If the members of the Ethics Hearing Board can't do the job because they are unaware of what it entails, they should resign. They are not up to the tasks. The Ethics Hearing Board is not a place for on the job training at taxpayer expense. Do the job.

The Ethics Hearing Board might need secretarial assistance to make phone calls. They might need webmasters to build web pages. They might need a stenographer. They might need to hire their own attorney. The might need to pay for outside speakers. They might need to educate the employees and hold seminars.

The Ethics Hearing Board is now forming a new sub-committee to look at a part of the ethics code, section 1.97.07. This concerns the golf outing from the summer. Today they put a deadline on this resolution from the sub-committee to the Ethics Hearing Board of April 2008.

So, when I posted here, or elsewhere, that Luke's golf outing problem from the summer of 2007 would have final resolution around the first of the year -- I was wrong. Looks like it won't be resolved until the sub-committee does its work, makes a report in April, and then it goes back to the Ethics Hearing Board to chew it over. Perhaps something will be to City Council in the middle of next summer's golf season.

That's some round, or two, of golf.

The Ethics Hearing Board is forming a sub-committee to focus in upon 1.97.07 and the gift matters from charities. So they thought it was a good idea to invite in the nonprofits to join the task force. They debated if one or two slots should go to the foundation types, as there are social service providers on one hand and foundation folks on the others. Those folks, after all, are the ones where the impact of the golf fees resides.


Not a peep about taxpayers, citizens, voters, nor everyday people. These members of the Ethics Hearing Board, a nun, a rabi, a member of the Alcoa Foundation and a minister (I think) are worried about what the foundation folks might think. They don't want to have an "unyielding body" in that task force. Or was is "un-wheeling" body?

The Ethics Hearing Board wanted to add to the weight of the recommendations of golf outings for their consideration so they can forward them to city council so that votes might be proposed for the eventual change in the city ethics code.

If we are looking for people to replace the deck chairs on the Titanic, I know just who to turn to, Pittsburgh's Ethics Hearing Board.

If anyone has a hand-me-down 8-ball fortune teller toy -- could they please pass that on to the Ethics Hearing Board. They are looking for a tech upgrade and need some direction.

Ethics Hearing Board -- have you ever heard of "Do it yourself?"

Re-write the code. And, do it yourself.

Get educated. And, do it yourself.

Do the job. And, do it yourself.

While you are doing things, begin by sending a letter to the new controller. Tell him you think that confilcts of interest are a big deal and they should be avoided at all costs. So, he should resign from the board of A+ Schools, right away.

Michael Lamb, the new controller, said in the media, that he would seek the opinion of the Ethics Hearing Board as to his board position for a booster group for the Superintendents and Foundation's agenda for schools. In so many words, Lamb said he was clueless as to the ethics of the matter at hand and he would be looking for guidance from you. Give it to him -- in a letter -- for all to see.

This little blog of mine, I'm going to let is shine. Let is shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Update: Coverage in the P-G the next day:
Task force considers charitable event changes
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The city of Pittsburgh's Ethics Hearing Board voted yesterday on the composition of a task force that will recommend changes to rules on public officials' attendance at charitable events.

The task force will be chaired by ethics board Vice Chair Kathy Buechel, and members will include fellow board member Rabbi Danny Schiff, one member appointed by the mayor, one or two members appointed by City Council, and one member each from the foundation and the corporate world.

The ethics board has opined that officials should only be allowed to attend charitable functions as guests of the charity, rather than under sponsorships from third parties. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has opposed restrictions on official attendance at charitable events, proposing instead a requirement that any gift of an event ticket worth more than $500 should be reported on annual disclosure forms.

The board also intends to ask for a $40,000 budget line from the city to pay for ethics training, clerical help and an independent investigator when needed.


Anonymous said...

There should be an ethics officer, full time. The Board is a horse and pony show, not a functioning position.

Mark Rauterkus said...

I don't want to make a new position. We need ethics to reside on everyone's desk -- not on the back of one person.

The mayor and the controller -- and those on council -- should have peer review. They are the ones we elect. They should be responsible. They should be accountable.

I don't want anyone to pass the buck.

Anonymous said...

Mark, its at the point where:

a) there is a need for one
b) A sop of procedures are set forth to allow the ethics officer to take action.

Without this, I see the Wild West continuing on Grant Street.