Tenure of Ethics Board's chairman Glazer coming to an end

Richard Glazer announced the news himself.
Richard Glazer announced the news himself.
Posted: October 19, 2012

Mayor Nutter has decided to end Richard Glazer's six-year run as chairman of the city Board of Ethics, despite widespread respect for Glazer's work building an effective, independent agency and giving teeth to the city's campaign-contribution limits.

Glazer, 69, a lawyer who also heads the Pennsylvania Innocence Project at Temple University's law school, provided the first public word of the mayor's decision at the Ethics Board's monthly meeting Wednesday.

"I'm immensely proud of what we've accomplished," Glazer said. "I think there's real, convincing evidence that the board has made a difference in the ethical and political landscape of the city, and I'm gratified to have been a part of that."

Nutter's office confirmed that the mayor is nominating lawyer Brian J. McCormick Jr., 43, to replace Glazer. McCormick is a managing partner of Sheller P.C. and a member of a panel that studied ethics and campaign-finance changes.

"Mr. Glazer served a five-year term and then was continued for another year. He did a truly great job," said Nutter's spokesman, Mark McDonald. "He made the Ethics Board what it is today, a respected organization with real teeth. . . . The mayor has nothing but praise for the work done, but I also think there comes a time for new ideas. Other people want to do public service, too."

The mayor is also nominating former Superior Court Judge Phyllis Beck to continue on the board, McDonald said. Another seat remains vacant. The appointments require approval from City Council.

Former Mayor John F. Street appointed Glazer and four others to a reconstituted ethics panel in 2006, after then-Councilman Nutter persuaded the rest of City Council to set up a referendum on making the Ethics Board an independent agency. The change was approved overwhelmingly by the public, and the panel chose Glazer as its chairman.

With a bare-bones staff led by executive director Shane Creamer Jr., and with Glazer working several days a week without pay, the board took responsibility for interpreting and enforcing a new city ordinance designed to limit campaign donations to $2,500 from individual donors and $10,000 from political action committees.

It was tested immediately by multiple candidates for mayor and other offices, trying various stratagems to get around the limits.

The board forced candidates to return tens of thousands of dollars in excess contributions and levied fines against those it could catch.

Over the last five years, the list of candidates paying Ethics Board penalties has become a who's who in local politics, including a PAC controlled by former Gov. Ed Rendell, the mayoral campaigns of Democratic Party chairman Bob Brady and millionaire Tom Knox, District Attorney Seth Williams, eight members of City Council, several powerful labor unions, and more.

"Richard Glazer has been an extraordinarily capable and effective leader," said lawyer Gregory Harvey, who had several clients on that list. "He was responsible for getting the board organized, hiring staff, and establishing the board as a truly independent entity."

Harvey was chairman of a city ethics panel appointed by Mayor W. Wilson Goode in the 1980s.

"I think Glazer did a terrific job as chairman," said Zack Stalberg, president of the Committee of Seventy, a civic group that pays close attention to government reform issues.

"We butted heads on a few issues, but there's no denying the fact he established that agency as something to be taken seriously," Stalberg said. "He worked extremely hard in a nonpaying job, he really stood up to the prevailing political winds, and it's going to be very difficult to erode the clout of that agency after the work that Glazer has done."

"Richard Glazer was the guiding person who organized and created the structure they have today," said Councilman Bill Green. "The professional staff and structure his leadership is leaving in place will serve the city well for years to come."

Glazer told reporters Wednesday that he would have been interested in continuing, but it didn't come up in a telephone conversation with the mayor last week.

Glazer said Nutter thanked him cordially for his service and said he planned to nominate someone else to fill the remainder of the term.

"It's the mayor's prerogative, and I respect that prerogative," Glazer said.

Asked if he could have won confirmation from Council, where the Ethics Board has never been popular, Glazer shrugged. "I have no way of knowing," he said. "Over the years there were some feathers ruffled, but there's been a cooperative effort the last few years."

Contact Bob Warner at 215-854-5885 or warnerb@phillynews.com.

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