Council tables vote on Ethics reappointment Angry Council members said the board operated in "gotcha" mode. It did confirm two new members.

Posted: March 10, 2010

An angry and frustrated City Council fired a warning shot at Philadelphia's Board of Ethics by tabling a vote to reconfirm Mayor Nutter's first appointee to the watchdog panel.

Council delayed a decision on whether to reappoint Kenya Mann Faulkner, a former federal prosecutor who is a partner at Ballard Spahr, to the five-member board, which oversees Philadelphia's campaign-finance laws.

She declined to comment after the hearing, while Mayor Nutter said he would continue to support her reappointment.

"Kenya has served tremendously well on the board for two years," Nutter said. "The key to a strong Ethics Board is having strong people who are independent in their thought and who take the work seriously. She's done both."

Also yesterday, Council confirmed the appointment of two new board members: Sister Mary Scullion, a leading advocate for the homeless, and Nolan Atkinson Jr., a partner at Duane Morris.

The criticism of the Ethics Board comes after it fined several Council members and their allies for violations of campaign-finance laws. It also points to possibly testy hearings in the next few weeks over the board's budget.

During nearly three hours of testimony, Council members complained that the board had too often operated in "gotcha" mode and had failed to clarify its rules and operating procedures.

"We don't want to learn the rules after we made the mistake," Majority Leader Marian B. Tasco said. "We want to know before there is an election."

Mann Faulkner acknowledged that the board may need to find ways to communicate better.

"I think we maybe need to reach out more if that would improve relationships," she said after Councilman Bill Green asked her to name three ways the board could improve.

Green also pressed Mann Faulkner about the Ethics Board's decision to rehire its general counsel, Evan Meyer, after he participated in the city's deferred retirement option plan, or DROP. The controversial program allows city employees to retire for a day, collect a lump-sum pension payments, and then resume working.

"At this point, I can't say that I support you because you don't seem that interested in getting the facts," Green told Mann Faulkner after she would not agree that the board should find out whether other lawyers have Meyer's expertise.

Mann Faulkner said the board had kept Meyer because he was "unmatchable," but Green said the board should at least look elsewhere, given the questions about DROP.

Some on Council complained that the board's decision to fine its executive director, J. Shane Creamer Jr., $500 was a "slap on the wrist." Creamer paid the fine after disclosing to the board that he had violated its confidentiality code by discussing a case with a Philadelphia Daily News reporter last spring before it was resolved.

Tasco told Mann Faulkner that the board needed to learn to communicate more openly with targets of its investigations.

"Our impression was that we could not talk to the board, that you were off on another island," Tasco said.

The board last month agreed, after testimony from Council, to give subjects a chance to address the full board before it decides whether to act on a pending investigation.

Contact staff writer Miriam Hill

at 215-854-5520 or hillmb@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer Jeff Shields contributed to this article.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|