The Philadelphia Board of Ethics has demonstrated again that it isn't in the business of making friends, and will carry out its duties without fear or favor.

In a surprise twist, the Ethics Board the other week even cited its own executive director for breaching confidentiality rules when speaking to a reporter.

Executive Director J. Shane Creamer Jr. was fined $500 for the breach. To his credit, Creamer reported the infraction to Ethics Board Chairman Richard Glazer. But Creamer should know more than anyone that he must be above reproach.

From that perspective, Creamer's sanction could build credibility for the board - in effect, showing that no one is above the ethics rules. Still, it was an embarrassing episode.

The Ethics Board must maintain the highest ethical standards if it is to preserve its credibility. After all, the board already has enough politicians eager to undermine efforts to reform City Hall and return to the old ways of doing business.

Two candidates for district attorney in the May 19 Pennsylvania primary couldn't have been happy about being cited by the Ethics Board for campaign-finance violations within weeks of voters going to the polls.

The political push-back was evident at a City Council hearing after the ruling, when Councilman William Greenlee asked a nominee to the Ethics Board whether the panel should avoid influencing elections.

The board was correct to inform voters of ethics sanctions and fines levied against candidates Dan McCaffery and Seth Williams before the election. Armed with that information, voters were better prepared to make their choice. In the end, they gave Williams the Democratic nomination for district attorney.

The Ethics Board's work is vital to ridding the city of its pay-to-play political culture, where policy too often is shaped by whom you know and big-money campaign donations.

It's also important that the board be at full strength - yet it has gone for seven months with one of five seats vacant. Another vacancy will occur over the summer, leaving the board with no leeway in meeting the three-member quorum for official action.

As it happens, Council members look to be in no hurry to confirm Mayor Nutter's recent appointment of retired businessman Edward Kung. Maybe they're already preoccupied by thoughts of their summer-long Council recess.

Meanwhile, the mayor needs to ready a replacement for another board member, Phoebe Haddon, who is headed to the University of Maryland as law school dean.

A reform-minded mayor and Council need to keep the Ethics Board fully on the case.