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

Many other critical issues beyond those involving honest government will dominate your campaign before it is over. But belief in your proposed solutions to improving public education, reducing poverty, fixing the city’s pension liability or anything else will inevitably depend on whether city residents believe that their City Council representatives are trustworthy.

We urge you to embrace the recommendations you favor, explain your reasoning behind any you oppose and offer additional ideas we haven’t thought of.

In 2007 and 2011, Seventy distributed an “Ethics Agenda” to the candidates for City Council. We are pleased that a number of reforms recommended in our agendas have been achieved, including:

  • Enacting the city’s first-ever lobbying registration and disclosure law.

  • Outlawing cash gifts for Philadelphia’s elected officials and employees.

  • Establishing a monetary threshold for the acceptance of non-cash gifts. 

  • Improving the city’s campaign finance ordinance.  

  • Working more cooperatively with the Philadelphia Board of Ethics.

At the same time, there is a significant amount of “unfinished business,” most notably: 

  • Enacting permanent rules that apply across the government, including forbidding nepotism, and imposing greater restrictions on outside employment.

  • Establishing a permanent, independent Office of the Inspector General in the City Charter.

  • Passing a comprehensive whistleblower law.

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

As you embark upon your campaign, we ask that you state your position on 16 specific reform measures that are designed to make Council as an institution, its members, and City government overall more accountable, transparent and effective.

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

Click here to view the City Council candidates' bios and their responses to Seventy's 2015 Integrity Agenda.

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

I.     Ethics and Transparency

Creating a Charter-Sanctioned, Permanent Inspector General. By Executive Order, Mayor Michael Nutter appointed an Inspector General to investigation corruption, fraud, waste and dishonest practices within the executive and administrative branches. During 2013, the OIG saved or recovered $10.9 million for city taxpayers.  Its investigations that year led to the termination or resignation of 28 city employees and the arrest or indictment of 10 individuals.

1. I will support a proposed amendment to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter to create a permanent, independent Inspector General with jurisdiction over the entire city government.

Making City Council’s Budget Details Transparent. Detailed budget information is publicly available for every taxpayer-funded unit of city government, including the Mayor’s office, City departments, commissions, boards and agencies and the independently elected row offices. That information is critical to City Council’s effective oversight of the annual budget process. City Council is the only unit of government that does not provide details on its own proposed spending.

2. I will support making information on Council’s proposed budget publicly available online, in the same format and in the same detail as other city departments.

3. I will make detailed information on the budget of my own office publicly available online.

Regulating Ties between Elected Officials and Non-Profits. Recent news accounts have raised troubling questions about ties between elected officials and non-profits, including reports of officials steering public dollars to pet non-profits, hiring or promoting the hiring of relatives or close associates to pet non-profits or making personal use of dollars intended for non-profits with which they are affiliated. There are no existing city rules that require disclosure of these relationships. 

4. I will support legislation that requires all employees who are obligated to file the city’s annual Statement of Financial Interests to report to the Philadelphia Board of Ethics any ties that they and members of their immediate family (spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, or child) have to non-profits. The information should be publicly available online.

5. I will personally disclose to the Board of Ethics any connections that I and any member of my immediate family have with non-profits. The information will be publicly available online.

Disclosing Second Jobs. 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 with the employee’s city job performance or other city interests. 

6. I will support 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. The information should be publicly available online.

7. I will personally register any outside jobs held by me or members of my staff to the Philadelphia Board of Ethics, along with a job description, on an annual basis. I will update that information during the year, as needed.  The information will be publicly available online.

Banning Nepotism. 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.  There is no citywide rule banning nepotism.   

8. I will support 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, life partner, parent, sibling, or child) either by the city official or employee or by others in city government.

9. I will personally not hire, promote or make any personnel decisions – or ask anyone else in city government to hire, promote or make any personnel decisions – involving a member of my immediate family.

Barring Political Activity by Non-Elected City Employees. Past efforts in City Council to loosen the restrictions on the political activity of most city employees have not been successful. As has been learned from recent scandals, partisan political activity during the work day can be difficult to stop.

10. I will continue to support current prohibitions that forbid most 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.

11. I will not personally hire a ward leader, committeeperson to serve on my staff or allow my staff  members to take an active part in the management or affairs of a political party or in a political  campaign, including my reelection campaign, while they are on my staff.  

Protecting Whistleblowers. 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.

12. 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.

Ensuring Public Participation in City Redistricting. Redistricting occurs only once each decade. The current redistricting process outlined in the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter contains no process for public participation to ensure that district lines are fair and equitably drawn.

13. I will support the creation of a non-partisan and independent citizen’s commission to allow for a more open and public process that will result in a fair citywide redistricting plan.

II.     Campaign Finance

Preserving Philadelphia’s Campaign Contribution Limits. Rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court have opened the floodgates for unlimited dollars not connected to local campaigns to flow to Philadelphia. Some have suggested that the only way to combat this is to eliminate the caps on contributions to candidates for local elective office.

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

Demanding Disclosure of Independent Money in City Campaigns. Voters often have very little, if any, information about the donors behind unlimited spending not connected to political campaigns. This is a growing issue not just in federal elections, but in state and local elections as well.

15. I will support legislation to require individuals, non-profits, corporations, unions or any other sources of independent expenditures to influence a city election to disclose their donors to the Philadelphia Board of Ethics, in addition to what is already required. This information should be publicly available online.

III.     Administering and Enforcing City Ethics and Campaign Finance Rules   

Strengthening the Philadelphia Board of Ethics. Philadelphia’s Board of Ethics administers and enforces the city’s campaign finance, financial disclosure, conflicts of interest and lobbying laws. The Board has a $1 million annual budget and 10 current staff members – far less than it needs to handle its broad responsibilities.  

16. I will support additional financial resources and personnel to enable the Ethics Board to operate as effectively as the citizens of Philadelphia deserve.

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 view the City Council candidates' bios and their responses to Seventy's 2015 Integrity Agenda.