Just when city officials appear to be ethics-challenged -- the former police chief will plead guilty to a five-count indictment next month, a federal grand jury is grilling people associated with the mayor's office -- Pittsburgh's ethics hearing board is dormant, if not defunct.
Could there be a connection?
In 2009, with plenty of fanfare, city council and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl enacted a series of reforms to bolster the city's ethics code and campaign laws. These days, though, according to a report by the Post-Gazette's Moriah Balingit, not much is being done to encourage ethics awareness and, we suspect, ethics code compliance.
With only two members and three vacancies, the five-member ethics hearing board lacks a quorum to take action. Various city employees must have an hour's worth of ethics training each year, but only one session has taken place, and that was three years ago. City employees are required to disclose on a website gifts received that are valued at more than $100; only one such gift has been posted in four years. That gift, $544 worth of Penguins tickets, must be reviewed, under the law, by the ethics board since it exceeded $500; it has not been examined.
If council and the mayor strengthened the ethics code for a purpose, what purpose did they have in rendering it toothless four years later? It's time for them to get a good law back on track -- regardless of how many criminal probes are going on in the city.