Two vacancies on Philadelphia's five-member Board of Ethics have left the city's official watchdog "weaker than it's ever been," according to board Executive Director Shane Creamer.

Last week, board vice chairman Richard Negrin resigned his post to become interim executive director of the Board of Revision of Taxes.

In September, Phoebe Haddon resigned her seat when she left Temple University to become dean of the University of Maryland School of Law.

Mayor Nutter has yet to nominate a replacement for either.

"We really need the board to be at full strength to fulfill its mandate to administer and enforce city ethics laws," Creamer said. "We need strong, independent individuals, and we need them in those spots as soon as possible."

Nutter spokesman Doug Oliver said the administration would name the mayor's nominees as "expeditiously as possible."

The mayor might be feeling a little gun-shy, given that City Council must confirm his pick.

In June, nominee Edward Kung was forced to withdraw after Council raised objections to him. The mayor would surely like to avoid a replay of that episode.

"We will work jointly with Council through this process," Oliver said. - Patrick Kerkstra

A target for cutbacks

Mayor Nutter and City Council may soon tangle on yet another ethics front.

A number of Council members and staffers tell Heard in the Hall that, should budget cuts be needed this year (and they almost certainly will be), Council will look for cutbacks in the Office of the Inspector General.

It is a small office, with a 2009-10 budget of just $1.3 million and 19 budgeted staff positions. Led by former federal prosecutor Amy Kurland, the office has investigated and gotten fired one member of the Board of Revision of Taxes, audited the defunct Penn's Landing Corp., and uncovered the fraudulent activities of a number of city employees.

But there are some on Council who feel the city spends too much on ethics enforcement, with Kurland, the Board of Ethics, and Joan Markman (another former federal prosecutor), who serves as chief integrity officer.

Nutter spokesman Doug Oliver said the Inspector General's Office was critical to the administration's effort to "deter unethical, corrupt, and criminal behavior in city government." - Patrick Kerkstra