Ethics in government, a potent point in Michael Nutter's 2007 bid for mayor, emerged Tuesday as an issue for the candidates seeking to replace him.

Terry Gillen, a longtime Nutter aide and briefly a candidate for the Democratic nomination for mayor, sparked the issue with an essay published in The Inquirer saying the next mayor and City Council should affirm the ethics reforms Nutter has put into place. And one of the candidates promptly heeded her call.

Gillen pointed to the chief integrity officer, a post Nutter created, and the Office of Inspector General, which enjoyed significantly increased powers and resources after he took office in January 2008.

And she noted that John F. Street, Nutter's predecessor, saw several members of his administration convicted on criminal charges, and that the FBI placed a listening device in the mayor's office. Street was never accused of wrongdoing.

Nutter said Tuesday, "It would be astounding to me, and, I think, a complete insult to me, to the citizens of this city who have been through so much and seen so much over the years of bad government," if the next mayor does not keep the reforms in place.

He added that he planned to express that view "in the course of the campaign."

Ken Trujillo, a Democratic candidate who served as city solicitor during Street's first term, seized on Gillen's call, announcing that he wanted the chief integrity officer and inspector general posts made permanent and codified within the City Charter.

Trujillo, like Gillen, cited the work of Joan Markman as Nutter's first chief integrity officer. Markman, 57, died last week.

In a statement, Trujillo said Markman's "work will be in vain if our next mayor does not work with City Council to ensure the positions of an independent inspector general and chief integrity office are permanent."

Council, however, seems to have almost no interest in that.

Councilman James Kenney, who is still mulling a run for mayor, introduced legislation nearly two years ago to ask voters if they wanted to change the charter to make the inspector general an independent office. That legislation was referred to the Law and Government Committee, where no action has been taken.

"There hasn't been a lot of enthusiasm for doing it," Kenney said of his colleagues.

Aside from Trujillo's stance, Gillen's challenge drew mixed reactions from other mayoral candidates.

State Sen. Anthony H. Williams, through a campaign spokesman, repeatedly dodged the question of whether he would keep in place Nutter's reforms or try to strengthen them.

"We have plans that are consistent with maintaining the culture of transparency and integrity," Williams spokesman Al Butler said.

Former District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham said she had no plans to eliminate the posts if she was elected mayor. She questioned whether the inspector general and chief integrity officer should both report to the mayor, but said she needed to study the issue.

Nelson A. Diaz, a former Common Pleas Court judge who also served as city solicitor for Street, said through a campaign spokesman that he would maintain Nutter's reform efforts and considered ethics oversight an important part of government.

Doug Oliver, who plans to formally announce on Feb. 7 his bid for the Democratic nomination, said he wants to keep both positions. Oliver, who was press secretary for Nutter when he instituted the reforms, said the money saved from cracking down on corruption paid for the efforts.

"The bigger reward wasn't just the money, but the change in culture," Oliver said. "The people knew someone was at the wheel, that someone was watching."

215-854-5973 @byChrisBrennan