Nutter criticizes Ethics Board; Tasco's speech calling for director ouster
UPDATE: Mayor Nutter chided the Ethics Board for investigating one of its own and called for a separate investigation into the actions of executive director J. Shane Creamer. "The Board needs to revisit the entire situation," Nutter said in an interview with reporters outside his office. Nutter said the board should "take a second look" and refer the matter to the city's Inspector General or other investigative agency. Nutter's remarks were in response to comments by City Councilwoman Marian Tasco. See below.
City Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco today called for Ethics Board executive director Shane Creamer to step down for violatingthe board's confidentiality rules.
Creamer was fined $500 last week for speaking to a reporter about an open investigation. It was Creamer who approached his board of directors about the transgression, but Tasco suggested that the board was applying a double standard, and that she would have no confidence in the board while Creamer remained in the position.
No comment yet from Creamer, the board or Mayor Nutter, who appoints the board. Below are Tasco's comments read at City Council's regular meeting today:
"IN DECEMBER 2005 MY COLLEAGUES AND I PASSED LEGISLATION CREATING THE INDEPENDENT BOARD OF ETHICS AND ON MAY 16, 2006 PHILADELPHIA VOTERS APPROVED THE BOARD'S CREATION IN A REFERENDUM WITH THE EXPECTATION THAT THIS BOARD AND ITS STAFF CONSIST OF STRONG INDEPENDENT PEOPLE OF THE HIGHEST INTEGRITY WHO WOULD REALIZE ABOVE ALL ELSE THAT THEY WERE EMPOWERED WITH THE PUBLIC TRUST.
HOWEVER, IN THE MAY 27TH EDITION OF THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, THE HEADLINE READ, "BOARD OF ETHICS FINES OWN DIRECTOR." THE ARTICLE DISCLOSES THAT THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SHANE CREAMER VIOLATED THE CONFIDENTIALITY PROVISION OF THE CITY'S ETHICS LAWS CITING MR. CREAMER'S OFF THE RECORD CONVERSATION WITH A REPORTER REGARDING INVESTIGATIONS THAT WERE TO REMAIN CONFIDENTIAL.
THIS ARTICLE IN THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER APPEARED FOUR DAYS AFTER A SIMILAR STORY RAN IN THE PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS ON MAY 23RD, THE SATURDAY BEFORE MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND. THIS HEADLINE READ, "ETHICS CHIEF HAD A LAPSE, HE'S FINED FOR TALKING ABOUT PROBE WITH THE DAILY NEWS."
THE STORY APPEARED ON SATURDAY BECAUSE THE ETHICS BOARD RELEASED THE STORY AT 5 PM FRIDAY, SURELY WHEN THEY THOUGHT NO ONE WOULD NOTICE.
A PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER EDITORIAL THAT APPEARED IN YESTERDAY'S EDITION GAVE KUDOS TO THE ETHICS BOARD FOR CITING ITS OWN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR UNETHICAL CONDUCT BY BREACHING CONFIDENTIALITY RULES WHEN SPEAKING TO A REPORTER. BUT I ASK YOU, WHAT FAITH CAN WE HAVE IN THE ETHICS BOARD IN LIGHT OF THE UNETHICAL PRACTICES OF ITS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR?
THE EDITORIAL FURTHER STATED THAT DESPITE BEING AN EMBARRASSING EPISODE, SHANE CREAMER'S SANCTION COULD BUILD CREDIBILITY FOR THE BOARD. I COULDN'T DISAGREE MORE.
UNDER CHAPTER 20-600, STANDARDS OF CONDUCT AND ETHICS OF THE PHILADELPHIA CODE, ANYONE WHO VIOLATES ETHICS LAWS IS SUBJECT TO A $2,000 FINE PER INCIDENT. THE $500 FINE SHANE CREAMER RECEIVED IS NOTHING MORE THAN A SLAP ON THE WRIST. WITH THIS SANCTION, THE BOARD MERELY TRIVIALIZED THE BEHAVIOR OF ITS OWN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR.
SHANE CREAMERS LAPSE IN JUDGMENT AND UNETHICAL BEHAVIOR HAS BREACHED THE PUBLIC CONFIDENCE, CONSEQUENTLY COMPROMISING THE PUBLIC TRUST.
HOW CAN WE ENFORCE ETHICS LAWS WHEN THERE IS A TWO-TIERED STANDARD OF ETHICS --- ONE FOR THE BOARD AND ONE FOR EVERYBODY ELSE?
I AM EXPRESSING MY OUTRAGE AND THAT OF OTHERS WHO ARE OFFENDED BY MR. CREAMER'S RECKLESS BEHAVIOR.
THE GOOD GOVERNMENT ADVOCATES, LIKE ZACK STALBERG AND THE COMMITTEE OF 70, WHO ARE USUALLY VERY VOCAL WHEN THEY PERCEIVE PUBLIC OFFICIALS HAVE DONE SOMETHING WRONG, HAVE BEEN UNCHARACTERISTICALLY SILENT ABOUT THIS ISSUE. ONCE AGAIN, IS THERE A TWO-TIERED STANDARD OF ETHICS?
I HAVE EXPRESSED MY CONCERNS WITH THE MAYOR AND AM AWAITING HIS RESPONSE.
IF WE ARE TO MAINTAIN A BOARD OF THE HIGHEST ORDER AUTHORIZED TO ENFORCE OUR ETHICS LAWS, WE MUST PRESERVE THE PUBLIC TRUST. THEREFORE, MR. CREAMER MUST BE REMOVED IMMEDIATELY FROM HIS POSITION AS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE ETHICS BOARD.
IN FACT I BELIEVE HE TENDERED HIS RESIGNATION WHEN HE DECIDED TO ENGAGE IN UNETHICAL CONDUCT.
THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THIS BOARD MUST BE LIKE THAT OF CAESAR'S WIFE --- ABOVE EVEN THE SUSPICION OF WRONG DOING. "
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