Philadelphia is the nation's largest city government where lobbyists roam City Hall free from rules requiring them to register, disclose clients, or identify whom they are meeting.
Mayor Nutter's task force on ethics and campaign finance reform yesterday suggested ending that practice and asked the mayor to consider 35 other recommendations as he begins the second half of his four-year term.
For now, Nutter committed to enacting none of them. He called the report "very comprehensive and thoughtful" but said the recommendations were complex and needed study, and he committed to no time frame for doing so.
"I will carefully review this report and move forward on its recommendations as appropriate," said the mayor, whose 2007 campaign was largely built on restoring honesty and integrity to city government.
"Our efforts here are to stop wrongdoing before it starts," Nutter said at a City Hall news conference where the report, completed by a nine-member task force, was unveiled after 14 months of work.
The task force made at least three general suggestions, including establishing the Inspector General's Office as an independent agency; now, the inspector general reports to the mayor.
In addition, it made the case for an upgrade of the city's political contribution database, saying the current system was of limited use and not easily accessed.
And lastly, it emphasized a need to strengthen the Philadelphia Board of Ethics by delegating to it more responsibility, along with more funding.
Nutter, who as a city councilman pushed legislation leading to the ethics board's 2006 creation, praised its work but would not commit to a specific funding level for next year. The board's current budget is $810,000, down from its initial annual funding of $1 million.
Among the three dozen recommendations, the task force also suggested:
Adoption of a strict antinepotism and anti-fraternization policy.
Loosening of political activity restrictions to permit city employees to wear political buttons out of the office or display campaign signs at their homes.
Redefining candidate - in time for the 2011 election cycle - to close a loophole that allows some city office seekers to skirt Philadelphia's campaign-finance law.
Some of the suggested changes can be executed by Nutter himself; others need legislative approval by Council.
"Mayor Nutter and City Council have demonstrated their resolve to make Philadelphia a model for ethics reform and to foster confidence in those who live, work, and visit this great city, and we hope that they will continue to do so by implementing these recommendations," task force chairman Michael Schwartz said.
Zack Stalberg, president of the good-government group Committee of Seventy, said he wished the report had been "a little bit tougher" in some areas. But he commended the task force for its "serious effort" to look at such issues. "They've come out where we've thought they should come out."
Stalberg expressed concern that no Council members were at the news conference, including Council President Anna C. Verna, who created the task force with the mayor in September 2008. A spokesman for Verna, Anthony Radwanksi, said later that she was not directly invited and, in fact, was still awaiting a copy of the report.
"I'm worried about what happens next," Stalberg added. "I did not hear anything in the way of commitment from the mayor."