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Allegheny County Council: Follow the rules, rule-makers

| Saturday, March 18, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

Allegheny County Council makes rules for others to follow — such as the indoor vaping ban it just passed — but seemingly disregards rules it's supposed to follow.

The Democrat majority apparently violated the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act by holding a closed-door January caucus meeting, at which a council quorum made a foregone conclusion of filling a vacancy. Solicitor Jack Cambest defended that meeting.

After the perfunctory vacancy-filling vote at the next day's regular meeting, council President John DeFazio, D-Shaler, laughingly said, “We didn't really have to do that, but I did it anyway.” Not funny.

Council apparently skirted the Sunshine Act again in February, by neither announcing nor giving a reason for a closed-door session — which included Mr. Cambest — held an hour before a regular meeting. “I think I let it slip by,” Mr. DeFazio said. That's slipshod.

And for more than two years, members often haven't complied with the council's own rule requiring written explanations for abstentions, the Trib has found. “If it's an inconsequential vote” — such as DeFazio abstaining from the vaping-ban vote — “it doesn't matter,” said Cambest, who stayed mum at a February 2015 meeting when DeFazio said abstention explanations weren't needed.

For the sake of transparency and proper procedure, and its own credibility as a lawmaking body, Allegheny County Council must stop this indefensible nonsense and play by the rules it should obey.

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