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Politics & Government

Allegheny County Council to consider 'resign to run' policy again

allegheny_county_council_.jpg
Katie Blackley
/
90.5 WESA

Voters could be asked once again to allow Allegheny County councilors to keep their seats while they run for other elected positions. Council’s Government Reform Committee voted Tuesday to recommend the full council approve a recently proposed ordinance that would put the question on the ballot later this year.

The county’s home rule charter currently requires council members to resign their positions before running for other elected offices. The ordinance would allow voters to eliminate this requirement as early as the November election.

“My attitude is that you don’t want to have anything at all that would discourage an otherwise very qualified person from running for a county council position,” said council Democrat Jack Betkowski.

Voters have rejected the proposal before. In 2003, voters chose twice to leave the "resign to run" policy in place. Another effort to repeal the policy in December 2021 failed because it was not brought up for discussion and did not get a vote.

The county executive must follow a similar, but less stringent, rule which prevents them from being a nominee for more than one county office at a time. But councilors are the only county officials who must resign before pursing another office.

Allegheny Council President Pat Catena, who co-sponsored the bill, said it would eliminate “penalties” on councilors who want to run for a different office.

“I believe as County Council members we ought to be entitled to the same respect as other office holders, and other office holders are not required to resign to run,” said Catena. “I’m fully in support of this legislation because I think it puts us on a level playing field with the rest of the elected officials in our area.”

Supporters say requiring resignations hurts the voters who elected the council members in the first place.

“Why should we on County Council in Allegheny County be the only people that aren’t allowed to aspire to other positions without resigning?” asked Bob Macey, a sponsor of the bill. “I could be really dramatic about this and just say it’s un-American. It’s not right. I feel it’s unconstitutional.”

Committee members Liv Bennett, Paul Klein, Anita Prizio, and Bethany Hallam voted to send the ordinance to the full council with an affirmative recommendation. No committee members objected.

The proposed ordinance would need majority support from the council and the approval of County Executive Rich Fitzgerald before the question makes it onto the ballot. If the measure does pass, the question will appear on the November 8, 2022 general election.