Mayoral candidate Darlene Harris still not complying with finance reporting law, Ethics Board says
March 16, 2017 2:25 AM
Darlene Harris, a Pittsburgh City Councilwoman representing District 1, files her petitions on March 7 to enter PIttsburgh's mayoral race for the next election.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto
By Chris Potter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The City of Pittsburgh’s Ethics Hearing Board has a reminder for candidates running for city office: Don’t forget to follow the law.
It’s unclear whether that will compel a change in behavior by mayoral candidate Darlene Harris in advance the May 16 Democratic primary.
In a Wednesday press release titled “Ethics Board Reminds City Government Candidates to File Finance Reports,” the board called attention to a 2015 ordinance requiring candidates to provide the board monthly reports about financial activity, “on the first business day of each of the five months prior to Election Day.”
This is the first local election cycle in which the rules have taken effect. And at a board meeting earlier this month, says Executive Manager Linda King, “It was decided that because the law was so new, we assumed that people who didn’t file might be unaware of it.”
That may be an optimistic interpretation.
As of Wednesday Ms. Harris, a North Side city councilwoman who is challenging Bill Peduto for mayor, still had not filed those reports. Nor did Jim Burn, an attorney for her campaign, suggest that it had slipped his mind.
“We really have serious reservations about that law,” he said. “We’re going to look at it, but I don’t know what we’ll do with respect to it.” In the meantime, he said, “We’re going to do what we have to do with the already-existing laws,” including state provisions that require much less frequent reporting.
Ms. Harris has objected that provisions of the law, like a prohibition on using money she raised during earlier city council runs, protect well-heeled ncumbents like Mr. Peduto. The mayor had over $767,000 at the end of February. The Rev. John Welch, another challenger, had $10,741 at that point. Ms. Harris, who last filed a report with the county in January, reported having $25,903 at that time, which would have covered 2016.
Under the city law, a campaign can be charged $50 per day for filing reports late. The Peduto campaign declined to comment on whether it would file an ethics complaint against Ms. Harris. Even if it had, it would be unable to say so. While any person or entity may file an ethics complaint, and the board can act on its own, the ethics law bars complainants from speaking publicly about their case.
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