Wagner Says County’s Ethics And Disclosure Process Is Broken

Aug 24, 2016

 

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner is calling for an overhaul of the county's ethics and disclosure process.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner wants an overhaul of the county’s ethics and disclosure process.

In an independent report over a two-year time period, Wagner said her office found multiple deficiencies in the county’s ethics code, which was enacted in 2001.

One such issue involves the Accountability, Conduct and Ethics Commission created to enforce the ethics code. Wagner said the commission lacks both independence and funding from the county.

For example, potential violations must be reported to the county manager, as well as the commission. Wagner found this mandate problematic, as it could lead to a lack of confidentiality and create conflicts of interest.

Allegheny County Spokeswoman Amie Downs said the county office had no comment.

In addition, the commission is made up of volunteer members who operate with no staff or solicitor. Wagner said the lack of resources prevents the commission from being completely autonomous.

Wagner also recommended that the county start providing routine, mandatory ethics training to its employees.

“If you are a county employee or a manager of a department, the only time that you have any sort of ethics training is when you’re first hired,” she said.

Wagner said her next step is to talk more with Allegheny County Executive Fitzgerald and the county council about enacting legislation to reflect these changes.

“We need it today, we needed it yesterday,” she said. “This is really all about how government operates, and we can’t be a modern government, expecting Allegheny County to move forward, if our ethics procedures are not reflecting that.”