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Ethics board, facing more work under new law, seeks 3 new staffers

Mayor Nutter backed a bill last year to create Philadelphia's first law requiring lobbyists to register with the city, to inject some light into the closed-door sessions lobbyists frequently hold with public officials.

Mayor Nutter backed a bill last year to create Philadelphia's first law requiring lobbyists to register with the city, to inject some light into the closed-door sessions lobbyists frequently hold with public officials.

But with the law set to go into effect July 1, the Philadelphia Board of Ethics, charged with implementing the new rules, says it does not have the resources to make it all happen.

At issue is $130,000 that the board says it needs to hire three new staffers to account for the tedious work involved in getting a lobbyist registration unit up and running - and maintaining it.

"In a larger agency, it might be possible to distribute new tasks throughout a larger staff, but with our small staff of eight, it is increasingly more difficult to absorb additional work," Ethics Board member William Brown said during a hearing on the board's fiscal 2012 budget Tuesday.

Specifically, the board proposes using the additional funds to hire two information specialists, paid $34,000 each, and to create a $50,000 supervisory/help desk position. The remaining $12,000 would be added to existing funds to pay for a vacant information specialist job.

The mayor's 2012 budget includes $810,000 for the board - the same budget it has had for the last three years. Before that, the board received $1 million in funds, as required by the City Charter referendum that led to its creation.

Nutter's budget director, Rebecca Rhynhart, said during the hearing that the mayor did not choose to give the Ethics Board more money in spite of the new lobbying registration requirements, which will require lobbyists to register and file quarterly reports of their activities and expenses.

"It's something we tell departments all of the time: You have to do more with less," Rhynhart said, noting what has been a challenging economic environment.

Councilman Bill Green appeared perplexed. "It seems to me since we passed it, and the mayor signed it, we now have the obligation to fund it," he said of the law.

Rhynhart responded, "We can definitely have that discussion with you."