Attorney For Phila. Councilwoman Fuming Over Ethics Board Online Post
By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The attorney for a Philadelphia city councilwoman who has had ethical problems in the past is furious at the city’s Ethics Board for making public the board’s opinion on whether she can host a fundraiser.
City councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown last January was fined nearly $50,000 by the Ethics Board for misstatements on finance reporting (see related story). Friends later offered to host a fundraiser on her behalf last March, and her attorney, Kevin Greenberg, says she sought an opinion from the Ethics Board on the advisability of doing so.
“The Board of Ethics advised her that, with certain restrictions, she could accept such funds,” Greenberg contends. “Despite authorization from the board, the councilwoman remained concerned that there might be an appearance of impropriety. Because of this possibility of an appearance of impropriety, the councilwoman decided not to accept the offered assistance.”
So the fundraiser never happened, but now the Ethics Board has posted its opinion — with the councilwoman’s name removed — online, and Greenberg says that violates Reynolds Brown’s confidentiality.
“The board failed to keep this confidential advice confidential,” Greenberg charges. “The advice is supposed to be confidential, to encourage elected officials to seek it.”
But Shane Creamer, executive director of the Ethics Board, said the board is required to publish the opinions, though with the names of the elected officials redacted, which he says was done in this case.
The online posting refers only to a “high level city official,” which Creamer says was intentionally vague, a point that Greenberg disputes.
Greenberg also objects to the use of a female pronoun in the report. Creamer says published opinions alternate the use of male and female pronouns to mask the gender of the official in question.