2011 Mayor's Ethics Agenda

   

The Committee of Seventy’s
2011 ETHICS AGENDA

PHILADELPHIA MAYOR


The Committee of Seventy is asking you and the other declared candidates for Philadelphia’s Mayor to commit to the attached Ethics Agenda – which is directed towards continuing to improve the political culture in Philadelphia.


Seventy would be surprised if you agreed with all of its recommendations.  We urge you to embrace the ones you favor, explain your reasoning behind any you oppose, and offer additional ideas we have not considered.


In 2007, Seventy distributed an “Ethics Agenda” to the mayoral candidates.  This “Ethics Agenda" spurred the creation of a Task Force on Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform, whose December 2009 Final Report contained many of Seventy’s proposed reforms.  Other ethics reforms achieved in the last several years include:  


•    Passing the city’s first-ever lobbying registration and disclosure ordinance.

•    Creating an ethics team within the mayor’s office.

•    Improving the city’s campaign finance ordinance.  

•    Enacting executive orders that forbid nepotism, tightening existing policies on accepting gifts, imposing greater restrictions on outside employment and prohibiting sexual harassment.


At the same time, there is still “unfinished business,” most notably:  


•    Successfully implementing funding to allow the Philadelphia Board of Ethics to effectively administer the lobbying registration and disclosure ordinance.

•    Enacting permanent ethics rules regarding, among other things, nepotism, gifts, and outside employment that apply across the entire government.

•    Passing a comprehensive whistleblower law.

•    Adopting additional campaign finance reforms.  


The next mayor has an opportunity to strengthen Philadelphia’s legal and policy framework to reach the highest level of ethical standards.  


We ask that you state your position on 20 specific reform measures that are designed to make city government more accountable, transparent, and effective.


Again, we invite you to share your own ideas for improving ethics in Philadelphia government.  Your responses, and those of your opponents, will be published on the Committee of Seventy’s website.  

 

Please state your agreement, or explain your disagreement, with the following reforms:


Recent rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court have raised concerns about opening the floodgates for unlimited campaign dollars flowing into Philadelphia.  The first test of the 2007 city campaign finance ordinance was overwhelmingly successful and helped cripple “pay-to-play” here.

    

1.  I will oppose any bill that seeks to dismantle or weaken the city’s campaign finance ordinance, including changing existing contribution limits.  


2.  I will advocate for legislation to require corporations or unions that spend their general funds to support or oppose Philadelphia candidates to disclose their identity and amount of spending to the Philadelphia Board of Ethics, and to require the Board to make this information publicly available online.  


3.  I will advocate for strengthening the city’s campaign finance ordinance to require 527 committees – groups that are only permitted to advocate either on behalf of or in opposition to political issues, and not for the election or defeat of a particular candidate – to register as political committees.  


Although improvements in the city’s finance ordinance were made to reflect lessons learned in the 2007 municipal elections, other proposed reforms – such as tying the receipt of campaign dollars to an election cycle rather than to a calendar year – remain unaddressed.  


4.  I will urge City Council to hold a hearing after the 2011 elections to consider additional reforms of the campaign finance ordinance with an eye towards making the city’s ordinance a national model for diminishing pay-to-play and political favoritism in contracting.


Although the city maintains an online database of political contributions, it is difficult to search and to understand.  


5.  I will improve the city’s electronic campaign finance report database so that it can be easily searched and understood by the public and its data can be exportable into a spreadsheet or other analytic software formats.


6.  I will make it easy for the public to learn about the contributions made by recipients of non-competitively bid contracts to elected city officials by linking eContract Philly (the listing of firms and companies seeking or receiving non-competitively bid contract awards) with the campaign finance report database.  


Many city employees hold second jobs.  However, since information on outside employment is not available online, it is hard for the public to determine any potential conflicts of interest with the employee’s city job.


7.  I will advocate for legislation recommended by the Task Force on Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform to require all elected and appointed city employees to register their outside jobs, and a detailed job description, with the Philadelphia Board of Ethics on an annual basis and to update that information during the year, as needed.  This information should be publicly available online.  


8.  I will strengthen the January 2011 Executive Order on Outside Employment and Self-Employment to require all executive and administrative branch employees to register their outside jobs, and a detailed job description, with the Philadelphia Board of Ethics on an annual basis and to update that information during the year, as needed.  This information should be publicly available online.


The offices of Philadelphia’s Sheriff and the City Commissioners – two independently elected row offices – operate with little oversight. The Sheriff’s office is undergoing an independent forensic audit following accusations of severe financial mismanagement by the City Controller. The office in charge of city elections – the City Commissioners – was tarnished when its Deputy Commissioner (the daughter of the Commission’s Chair) was forced to resign after admitting to engaging in prohibited political activity.


9.  I will champion a proposed amendment to the Home Rule Charter to eliminate two independently elected row offices – City Commissioners and Sheriff – and to transfer their necessary functions to other parts of government in order to ensure greater accountability.


10.  I will issue a public report on the progress of reforms to the Sheriff Office’s operations, financial, and technology practices that were the subject of the March 2011 Memoranda of Understanding involving the Sheriff’s Office, City of Philadelphia, and the First Judicial District.  The report should be released before the MOU expires on December 31, 2011 or before any renewal option is exercised.


City-related authorities, on which several city officials serve as Board members, operate by different ethical rules and practices than the rest of city government – or one another. Four examples include the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development, Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, the School Reform Commission, and the Philadelphia Housing Authority.   


11.  I will advocate for implementing consistent ethical rules and practices that are binding on all city-related authorities and the School District of Philadelphia, including legislative and charter changes where applicable.  On such Boards where I have appointees, I will work with them to make strong and consistent ethics policies a priority.

 

Public officials sometimes hire or appoint members of their immediate family to work directly for them or recommend members of their immediate family for other paid or appointed positions in city government.  While a January 2011 Executive Order bans nepotism within the executive and administrative branches of government, the Order does not apply to all city employees and can be revoked by future mayors.    


12.    I will champion the enactment of permanent legislation that forbids any city official or employee from having a role in hiring or promoting or participating in other personnel decisions involving a member of their immediate family (spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, or child) either by the city official or employee or by others in city government.     


A City Council proposal to create “less restricted” and “more restricted” categories of city employees in terms of who can engage in partisan political activities on non-city time (including serving as an officer or member of a political party or club or campaigning for candidates) was shelved in 2010 – but could be revived in Council in the future.


13.  I will oppose any effort by City Council to amend the City Charter to allow all or some non-elected city employees to serve as ward leaders, committeepeople or from taking any part in the management or affairs of a political party or in a political campaign.


An exception to rule prohibiting political activity by nonelected city employees, which was approved of in a 1952 City Solicitor’s opinion, permits City Council’s staff to serve as ward leaders, committeepeople and to take an active party in the management or affairs of a political party or campaign.  This exemption does not apply to virtually all other city employees, including members of the mayor’s staff, or even to volunteer members of certain boards and commissions.


14.  I will advocate for reversing the exemption of City Council from existing city rules that ban city workers from serving as ward leaders, committeepeople or from taking any part in the management or affairs of a political party or in a political campaign.


Philadelphia has several laws that protect city employees from retaliation for making credible reports of abuses and waste in government – but they only apply in certain circumstances.   


15. I will support passage of a comprehensive whistleblower law that provides sufficient protections for city employees who make good faith complaints about perceived wrongdoing in government.


Annual disclosure statements that many city employees, including elected officials, are required to file with the state and city are open to the public – but the public has to go to the Records Department in City Hall to see the city forms.  


16. I will support legislation that requires all annual city financial disclosure statements to be publicly available online.


The independent Board of Ethics received a strong mandate from the citizens of Philadelphia to regulate the ethical conduct of city government.


17. I will support sufficient funding for the Board of Ethics to operate effectively, including, but not limited to, the resources necessary to carry out its oversight of the city’s new lobbying law.


An executive order places strict limitations on the solicitation or acceptance of gifts, gratuities and favors by officials in the executive and administrative branches of government.


18.  I will advocate for strengthening the current rules on the acceptance of gifts by enacting permanent and clear guidelines applicable to the entire city workforce that would allow gifts up to an explicit dollar value, with limited exceptions.  

 

An office of the Inspector General is currently part of the executive branch and has no authority to investigate wrongdoing by other elected officials or their staffs.  


19.  I will advocate for the creation within the City Charter of an independent Inspector General with authority to investigate corruption, fraud, waste, or dishonest practices throughout city government, including City Council and independently elected row offices.


While ethical practices and initiatives by the Mayor and those under the Mayor's direction are of critical importance, it is no less important that strong ethics provisions be institutionalized across all City and City-related departments and agencies.  The Mayor must be an advocate for ethics across the board, and not sit on the sidelines when needed reforms are held up by politics in corners of the public sector outside his or her direct control.  


20.  I will fight for ethics reforms across all City departments and agencies, even where not under my direct supervision and control.  I will be an active voice and advocate for institutionalizing the highest level of ethics in government through legislative change that will extend beyond any single mayoral administration.



If you would like to supplement your responses to the questions above with any additional ideas or statements, please feel free to provide further comments below.

Click here to get a PDF of this Ethics Agenda

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