"What's black and white and read all over?"

Sunday, December 18, 2005
Posted 5:40 PM by

Perzel not only stumbling block to reform

An interesting editorial moved today on the AP wire, one week after it was first published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The newspaper called on state House Speaker John Perzel to get the heck out of the way and allow a vote on a lobbyist reform bill.

"In John Perzel's state no one except the media, according to him, wants a lobbyist disclosure law - assuming you overlook the 87 percent polled in Pennsylvania this year who said they wanted a law requiring all lobbyists to outline their spending.

That is the state of unreality that our House speaker inhabits, but no one else lives there. ... The way we see it, Rep. Perzel has five months between now and the May primary to let reform bills come to a vote. Unless, of course, he'd rather seek job-hunting tips from his fellow Philadelphian, Justice Russell Nigro."

I couldn't agree more with that statement. But I'd also go a bit further.

All elected state officials and employees are required by law to fill out a statement of conflicts of interests annually. But not all of them can be found at the State Ethics Commission.

For instance, public officials and public employees of local governments including but not limited to school districts, townships, municipalities, authorities, etc. are filed only with the respective local governments.

Anyone "interested in viewing a Statement of Financial Interest for these officials/employees should contact the respective local governing body," the commission's Web site says.

Meanwhile, similar records for employees of state agencies are filed with their respective agencies, NOT the Ethics Commission. "Parties interested in viewing these Statements of Financial Interest should contact the respective agency human resources office of the employee."

As a reporter, I knew where to get those records. In fact, I made copies of them every year for the county I covered and made them available to everyone in the newsroom.

But taxpayers don't know those rules and should not have to play detective, nor face potentially embarrassing questions, just to look at a piece of public information.

I'd recommend any reform movement include requiring local and state agencies to submit copies of those records to the commission annually. I'd also force the commission to make them more easily searchable.

Right now, those records exist solely as pdf files on the commission's Web site and finding the one you want to see is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Their titles are a list of filing numbers only, they're not listed alphabetically by last name nor does the site's search cover those files. It's almost as if they don't want you to find the information you're seeking.
 |  0 comments  |  |  RSS Feed | Add to Technorati Favorites

This Week's Rants | The Daily Rant Archives

Creative Commons License
The Daily Rant by Dave Ralis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.