A resurrected panel that began meeting this month can look into ethics complaints, compel testimony and recommend discipline across the Pittsburgh city government.
But advocates want results from the nine-member board to reach well beyond city hall.
“My hope is, in a great world, they never have to take any formal actions at any point — but that the public has greater trust that nothing nefarious is happening within the halls of city government because they’re watching,” Councilman Dan Gilman said.
He sponsored legislation last year that reconstituted the city Ethics Hearing Board, an on-again, off-again watchdog group that hadn’t met publicly in several years. Its return follows a 2013 campaign theme of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who pushed government accountability in his mayoral bid.
“This new board will ensure all ethics rules are investigated and followed independently, rapidly and transparently,” Mr. Peduto said in a statement.
His Law and Ethics Transition Team recommended the new panel.
Since the legislation passed, several organizations designated under the measure — including the Allegheny County Bar Association, the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership — nominated volunteer board members. City council finished the confirmation process in recent months.
“The board is designed to assure an open and transparent government. That’s part of our mission statement,” said Linda A. King, a lawyer hired to be the board’s executive manager on a part-time basis.
She hopes the group fosters trust and confidence both within and outside the city government, she said. Specifically, board members are expected to enforce the recently reworked city Ethics Code, which requires independent and impartial conduct by municipal workers.
The panel will review financial disclosure reports, provide workforce ethics training and offer guidance on ethical conduct, too, according to Mr. Peduto’s administration. The board has a proposed budget of $101,185 for 2017. Its office is on the third floor of the City-County Building, Downtown.
“As a brand new board, we have to educate ourselves and educate city employees about what the code means and how it applies to everyone,” said board chairwoman Amy E. McCall. She is a senior vice president and general counsel at Point Park University.
The full text of the Ethics Code is available through the board’s website at http://pittsburghpa.gov/mayor/group?id=28. Anyone who suspects that a city worker, former worker, vendor or would-be vendor has broken the code can reach Ms. King at 412-255-8882 or email@example.com, Mr. Peduto’s administration has said.
Mr. Gilman said the board would refer any potential violations of federal or state laws to the appropriate authorities. It meets at 4 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month on the City-County Building’s sixth floor.
“I don’t believe that any unethical conduct fell through the cracks because of the lack of a board,” Mr. Gilman said. “But our system is better served by having this board in place.”
Adam Smeltz: 412-263-2625, firstname.lastname@example.org, @asmeltz.