In Legally Dubious Maneuver, Residents Petition To Impeach Mayor For Gun Bills

Jan 29, 2019

As citizens attended a recent public hearing to speak for and against an effort to regulate guns within Pittsburgh city limits, Mount Washington resident Brooke Nadonley was doing a different kind of advocacy. 

Carrying a petition on a purple clipboard, she invited residents to sign if they wanted to impeach Mayor Bill Peduto.

Nadonley received 30 signatures while in line, the Republican Party committee member said.

The proposed city ordinances would ban certain firearms, accessories and ammunition within Pittsburgh. But gun-rights activists note that state law bars local municipalities from passing their own gun laws. Some have suggested that city officials should be arrested for passing the laws.

Nadonley cited similar concerns in pressing for impeachment. Elected officials, she said, are "examples to others, to our youth, to criminals; they really can't just go breaking laws that they don't like. We cannot have elected officials ... thumbing their noses at the taxpayers saying, 'Well we know we're going to get sued [but] we're doing this anyway.' Yeah, because it's not their money."

On Monday, Nadonley walked between the City County Building and Allegheny County Courthouse to attempt to file the petition. It wasn't easy.

“Nobody knew where to file it," she said. "It’s a little disappointing that when you put yourself out there that you have the right to be able to challenge your officials and you get the complete runaround on it.”

Nadonley was using a provision in the city's Home Rule Charter, which states that impeachment proceedings can be initiated by a written petition to the Court of Common Pleas, signed by at least 20 qualified electors who live in the city.

But as is the case with gun regulation, state law seems to grant impeachment power to state officials alone. Unless a local official has been convicted of a serious crime, the state Constitution identifies only two ways to remove him or her: The state House of Representatives can vote to impeach, or the Governor can remove "for reasonable cause." Both actions require a two-thirds vote of the state Senate.

A previous effort to impeach the mayor of Pittsburgh under the Home Rule Charter was dismissed by a local judge in 2003.

A Peduto spokesman called the petition a "joke and waste of time." In a statement that referenced the 2003 impeachment attempt, the mayor's office said the current effort "makes clear that some opponents of the city's proposed reforms would rather make goofy attempts to harass elected officials than actually engage in constructive debate on how to prevent the gun massacres threatening the public health of our country."

Peduto himself responded with a defiant Tweet that said, "Arrest me. Sue me. Impeach me. I was elected to protect my constituents."