Government transparency



The Post-Gazette is monitoring transparency in local and state governments. Many public officials, including Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, have pledged to make information about their administrations readily available to the public.

How are city, county and state governments doing? This page offers some stories to help track the answer.


Sept. 16: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sued the state Monday in Commonwealth Court, asking a judge to halt a practice across the executive branch of destroying emails after five days and instead order they be preserved for at least two years. The Post-Gazette on Aug. 24 reported the executive branch email practices, the five-day permanent deletions, as well as concerns of open-government advocates. 

Sept. 5: A female patient at Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic of UPMC reported an alleged sexual assault to a hospital staff member on Aug. 25. A Pittsburgh police officer was dispatched to Western Psych the morning of Aug. 26, but police did not provide any information about the case, or even confirm that it existed, until 10 days later. 

Aug. 30: Pittsburgh police said Friday that they are seeking information from Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic about a report of a possible sexual assault there earlier this week.

A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editor was listening to the police scanner about 6:45 a.m. Tuesday when he heard dispatchers reference a report of a possible sexual assault at the hospital. It is not clear whether a sexual assault actually occurred.

The Post-Gazette began asking Pittsburgh public safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler Tuesday for information about the call, and has asked her for information daily since then.

Ms. Toler said Friday, after the paper said it would place an entry on its transparency blog if police did not provide information about the call, that a commander had been called in on her day off to attempt to get information about the call.

"The Cmdr reached out to the hospital in an attempt to get info on whatever happened. I have no details still," Ms. Toler said.

A hospital spokeswoman said earlier this week that it cooperates with authorities on these sorts of investigations.

It is not clear whether workers with Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic have given police information about the call or at what point police first requested information about it from the hospital.

A grand jury said in its report released earlier this summer that officials with the hospital failed to cooperate with law enforcement officers investigating reports of sexual assaults. In response, UPMC defended its actions and called for the state legislature to amend laws governing the privacy of patients' mental health records.

Aug. 29: The state has begun exploring ways it might archive emails that routinely are deleted by its 80,000 executive branch employees. But the state does not appear to have plans to address — at least immediately — the other concerns raised by open-government advocates who were quoted in a Post-Gazette story.

Aug. 29: A city controller audit of a fund found that the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation needs to develop written policies and do a better job of documenting payments to referees and umpires. “City funds should not be held in non-city bank accounts.” Michael Lamb said.

Aug. 12: Recently, acting state Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq cited a department practice of purging emails each evening as the reason her department released only five emails for Ron Tomalis, the governor’s then special adviser on higher education, during his first year in the position. But the practice violates the department’s policy on record retention. It took two informal requests and a Right-to-Know request to the Department of Education for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to get a copy of the department’s policy on record retention.


Ron Tomalis (Post-Gazette)

Aug. 6: The Allegheny County Health Department was trying to be transparent in slapping Chinatown Inn with a Consumer Alert July 24 for a slew of violations. But the Downtown restaurant blocked the effort with two strategically placed potted plants in front of the yellow Consumer Alert decal. That plan backfired with an inspector photographed the cover-up and the county fined the eatery $800.

July 27: Records obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette through requests under the state Right-to-Know Law raise questions about how much time the governor's office required Ron Tomalis to spend on duties as special adviser to Gov. Tom Corbett for higher education.

July 18: The state Department of Public Welfare expressed regret for the deteriorated state of the former Dixmont State Hospital cemetery in Kilbuck and vowed to make sure it is not neglecting any other institutional burial grounds the state still owns.

July 17: Neither the state Department of Public Welfare, which operated Woodville and Dixmont hospitals, nor the state Department of General Services, which oversees state properties, responded to questions about dilapidated cemeteries at the former facilities.

 

Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette

Isolated in the woods of the former Dixmont State Hospital property in Kilbuck are the crumbling concrete markers of more than 1,300 graves of patients who died from 1863 through 1937.

 

June 30: A Pittsburgh police officer is selected as liaison to public safety director, but some officers say they were not aware the city was looking to fill the position.

June 23: Mayor Bill Peduto is seeking ways of forcing event promoters to pick up a larger share of the cost of city services required for special events, such as concerts. But no details about implementation were provided at a June 23 news conference. 

Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette

Workers clean up trash from the Carnegie Science Center parking lot on the North Shore the morning after the June 21 Luke Bryan concert.

June 16: The mayor's office says it took an officer off the streets following the controversial arrest of a woman at PrideFest. But Mayor Bill Peduto didn't refer to the officer by name.

May 27: Allegheny County hired a firm to curb employee sick-leave abuse. At the center of the controversy was the county's administration of the federal law that allows employees to take up to 12 weeks off for family and medical reasons without losing their job.

May 8: Five guards at Allegheny County Jail (below) were shelved, as a gun policy breach was being investigated. A county spokeswoman would not say whether the suspensions were related to the gun investigation.  

Post-Gazette

The Allegheny County Jail.

May 6: Are Pittsburgh City Council members using some of the city's discretionary funds for self-promotion? The city's controller said that is the case with some.

April 3: An Allegheny County 911 dispatcher remained silent for about 40 seconds while on the line with a woman accused of fatally drowning two of her children. County officials refused to identify the call-taker or release any information about their protocols.

March 28: Mayor Bill Peduto said a missing clock was found in city hall, but the mayor doesn't say who tipped officials to its location, when or where they found it.

Liz Navratil/Post-Gazette

A photo of the Seth Thomas clock that was reported missing from the mayor's office and was later found in the City-County Building.

March 10: A former Pittsburgh police spokeswoman kept her city-issued take-home car (seen below) for a week past her last day of work. But city officials were unable to explain why.

Post-Gazette

A city-issued vehicle was parked on March 6 at the Crafton Heights home of former Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard.
 
EDITOR’‍S NOTE: A previous version of this page listed “Pittsburgh” or “Allegheny County” as suggested search terms.

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