Password is thing of past for Phila. officials' disclosures

Posted: April 09, 2014

PHILADELPHIA Philadelphians can look at their city officials' annual financial disclosures online - and starting this week, they don't need a password.

That change comes after questions about the password system were raised by two ethics watchdogs, one inside city government, one outside.

The Philadelphia Records Department had posted the 2012 financial disclosure forms, in which elected officials list sources of income and gifts, on its website last fall, but was requiring users to sign up for a user name and password.

"They wanted to keep track of who was signing up by the numbers, what's the volume," city spokesman Mark McDonald said. But Chief Integrity Officer Hope Caldwell asked the department to take down the password protection last week when she noticed the sign-up requirement.

The password protection drew the ire of Committee of Seventy, a government watchdog group.

The committee's vice president, Ellen Kaplan, called it "inexcusable" that public documents would require a password. She inquired about the matter to the city after being informed by a reporter Friday.

By noon Monday, a password was no longer needed to access the documents.

The 2012 disclosure forms are only available online for elected officials: mayor, City Council, and row offices. Print copies are available in the Records Department for other officials.

Starting later this year, the 2013 forms will be uploaded for all elected officials and several dozen city employees, including deputy mayors and department heads, McDonald said. The 2013 forms are due May 1.

Mayor Nutter's 2012 forms list two expensive pens, tickets to a Pennsylvania Society event, and his trip to China.

Select Greater Philadelphia paid $2,954 for Nutter's transportation and lodging in 2012. That was the year the mayor led a Philadelphia delegation to China to develop business and educational connections. Select, the nonprofit arm of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, receives an annual $200,000 payment from the city.

Though Nutter's 2011 executive order bans most city officials and employees from accepting any gifts, even chocolates, Caldwell said the mayor's travels, including his March stay at a five-star hotel in Rome, are allowed under the city's gift rules. Nutter, Gov. Corbett, and others went to ask Pope Francis to come to Philadelphia next year. A church-connected nonprofit paid their way.

The trip "would fall under the exception of . . . a gift to the city where attendance serves a legitimate governmental purpose and promotes the city," Caldwell said in an e-mail Friday.

As long as the trips are disclosed, Kaplan said, she doesn't have an issue with third parties paying.

And the pens, such the $2,950 one Aker Philadelphia Shipyard gave to Nutter?

"The city should outright discourage these types of gifts that probably end up in some storage room," Kaplan said. "I can think of a lot better use of $3,000 - school supplies, for example."

McDonald said the pens are also considered gifts to the city and are sitting in storage.

"He's not using them," McDonald said.


To access the city's financial disclosure forms, go to http://fdswebsearch.phila-records.com/

cvargas@phillynews.com

215-854-5520 @InqCVargas

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