Thursday, November 29, 2007

Q & A about Pgh Ethics Hearing Board from a student at Pitt

Hello Mark,

I am a student at the University of Pittsburgh that happens to be working on a case study involving Luke and the Ethics Hearing Board. The course is Board Governance and we are studying different aspects of board governance (especially those that are not for profit). You seem very opinionated and I am requesting your thoughts on the Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Board to use in my analysis. I thought instead of using the different newspaper articles and simply highlighting what everyone already knows, I would turn to bloggers to get the “real deal” and see what actual Pittsburghers think about the Ethics Board, Luke, and their actions especially during the investigation period. Please forward this message to your fellow bloggers if you think they would be willing to share some insight as well.

1) Was the City of Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Board board structure and composition helpful or hurtful to the organization? Did board members have conflicts of interest?

2) Was the City of Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Board board a “good board?”

3) In your estimation, did the City of Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Board reach a fair decision on clearing Mayor Luke Ravenstahl on any wrong-doing? Were there any clear signs of negligence or incompetence on the part of the board or any of its members?

4) Did the board operate independently or did it do the bidding of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl (recall that two members of the board are nominated by the major)?

5) In your research, did you see any board activities that seemed questionable?

6) What did the board do right? What did the board do wrong?

7) Should the City of Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Board change their policies and/or procedures as a result of this set of hearings against Mayor Luke Ravenstahl?

8) What do you think motivated board members to join the Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Board? What agenda if any do you think each has as a board member?

Thank you, (Student's name and contact NUKED until I hear from him again.)

My replies:

#1) I've come to understand that the Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Board is nothing but a big joke. It is not helpful. It is not going to improve upon the ethical behaviors of those in local government. It is a sink. It is much like a fiddle for the mayor and others to play at their will. It moves too slow. I've seen glaciers move more quickly.

Those that are presently on the Pgh Ethics Hearing Board seem ill-prepared for the duty of being on the board. They have put in a request for a budget of $40,000 per year to the President of Pittsburgh's City Council. A big portion of that payment is for 'training.' These folks are not trained. They are in the dark and they know it. They are in over their heads. They are frozen with in-action. And, they won't move until others come to their aid and hold their hands.

I think those on the board who are not ready to be ethical and act as they are called to behave should resign. This is not a place for on the job training.

The organization of the board is fine. However, the people they have picked are fine with being in their role as puppets.

The board's leader, Sister Patrice, was in a conflict of interest by putting out a mention about the golf to Luke. She can't be judge and prosecutor in the same instance.

The board is also building a task force to look at the matter of gifts from the nonprofits. They are all from the nonprofit world. And, they seek more input from the nonprofits. This is okay -- but it comes at the exclusion of taxpayers, citizens, voters, residents. Everyone there has a nonprofit job. The want to increase the direction given to the nonprofit weenies. So, there are certain conflicts of interest because citizens are being excluded.

Rather than reform, however, it is often better to just replace first.

2) The City of Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Board board IS (present tense) a joke. The board stinks. That is NOT a "good board." I'm not sure why you ask about "WAS" (past tense). The board operates. It is not changing, sadly.

3) In my estimation, the City of Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Board has not yet reached a clear decision on Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's golfing in the summer of 2007. The code is still up for discussion and changes. Letters have been sent. Various filters and opinions are still brewing. A task force has been called, but not gathered. This matter won't be completed until 2008. Perhaps it will be over by the middle of the next golf season.

If the same offer was put forth again today, I expect that the same outcomes would unfold from the administration. It is not resolved. The lessons are not firm in everyone's understanding. Moving forward, there is much doubt that lingers.

The board members put Luke on trial and that was a very clever way of getting him off the hook. What they found could not stick. The complaint needed to come from a citizen. The Ethics Hearing Board just acts as JUDGE.

4) Without doubt, the Pgh Ethics Hearing Board operates without any hint of independence. It is a branch of the Law Department, in turn, a branch of the Administration, and, of course, the mayor!

5) In my opinion and research, I have found that all of the board activities are to be questioned. First, the entire process is undermined with the confidentiality requirement. Citizens should not be subject to fewer rights of speech because they file a complaint with the Ethics Hearing Board. The Ethics Hearing Board is unconstitutional.

The Ethics Hearing Board should look to all city officials, employees, contractors and candidates. The Ethics Hearing Board seems to think that candidates can't be unethical and that if they are -- that is not within their scope of concern. Go figure.

6) The Ethics Hearing Board has been worthless to the citizens and the struggle to live in a more ethical region.

7) The City of Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Board should change its policies. Radical changes are needed. They should happen quickly. First, those that can't tell what is right and wrong should resign. Those that can't open their own mail without it being screened by the law department should quit. Those that are clueless to the first amendment rights such as freedom of speech, should never be in any public capacity. The board should call for massive changes to the code and operations by saying it will stike down the provisions of confidential behavior from anyone who makes a complaint. And, all liabilities should be revoked as well. The board isn't in any position to dish out punishments. It should never be in that role.

8) Board members are motivated to help with the city for countless reasons. Pride, civic duty, and an awareness of the city's ills are just a few reasons. The agenda of the board members are for them to reveal -- not me. I can't begin to read their minds.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mark and fellow bloggers,

Thank you for the post.

I can be reached at