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City Office Candidates Face Ethics Board Over Campaign Finance Report Violations

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA

It's just over three weeks before the May primary, and some candidates for city office are facing off with Pittsburgh's Ethics Hearing Board, though they may not all face the board in person. 

A city law requires candidates to file monthly campaign finance reports, but at least eight current and former candidates have failed to do so at least once this campaign season. Under the city's campaign-finance laws, that could result in fines after a public hearing and review. One of the candidates to receive such scrutiny is former District 1 City Council candidate Quincy Kofi Swatson, who filed a report in February but not in March, when he withdrew from the race in advance of a challenge to his election petitoins.

Swatson appeared before the board for a public hearing on Monday, when he turned in the completed forms. He also asked the board to dismiss potential fines. After the meeting, Swatson expressed his frustration with the law, saying it makes it difficult to run for office. 

"I am all for transparency in government finances," he said. "But what this current Democratic machine is doing is making it almost impossible for any average Pittsburgher to run for local office."  

Leanne Davis, who is executive manager of the board, said the reporting law is an effort to keep candidates accountable.

"You don't want to see in a campaign-finance report that someone got a contribution from John Doe, and then next thing you know John Doe is getting a city contract," Davis said. 

Former District 9 council candidate Leon Ford was also scheduled to appear before the board on Monday, but did not show up. 

Other candidates have complained about the law, including District 1 councilor Darlene Harris. She says it violates state law and has not filed any reports this year