8 Pittsburgh council candidates miss deadline for filing financial reports
Nearly half of 19 current and former candidates for Pittsburgh City Council seats in 2019 – including North Side Councilwoman Darlene Harris – missed an April deadline for filing financial reports with the city, according to the Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Board.
Candidates for elected city offices – whether or not they remain in a race – must file reports outlining campaign donations and expenditures with the ethics board on the first business day in each of three months leading to an election, according to a city ordinance. Eight council candidates, including three who dropped their campaigns, failed to file reports by April 1 and are subject to a late filing penalty of $50 per day.
The primary election is May 21.
Other candidates reached by the Tribune-Review called the process confusing, unfair and said they either refused or forgot to file by the deadline.
“As long as Darlene Harris doesn’t file, I’m not going to file,” said Kierran Young, 26, of Stanton Heights, who is running for a District 9 seat held by Councilman Ricky Burgess. “If a sitting member of council doesn’t have to abide by the rules, why should I?”
The other candidates are Mark Brentley Sr., 62, of Allegheny Center; Quincy Swatson, 27, of East Allegheny; Ken Wolfe, 44, of Allentown; Leon Ford, 26, of Shadyside; Randall Taylor, 57, of East Liberty and Cherylie Fuller, 62, of Homewood. Swatson, Ford and Taylor dropped their campaigns, but still must file reports with the city, according to Leanne Davis, the ethics board’s executive manager.
Davis said the board has not made a decision regarding the late filing and declined further comment, citing a confidentiality provision. The board is scheduled to discuss the situation at a public meeting on April 29, according to an online agenda.
Brentley is running for Harris’s District 1 seat in the North Side, Wolfe is running for a South Side District 3 seat held by council President Bruce Kraus and Fuller and Young are running for an East End District 9 seat held by Councilman Ricky Burgess of North Point Breeze.
“Meeting our obligations in a timely manner is essential in the effective performance of our duties as members of council,” Kraus said. “Missing these minor deadlines, I believe, speaks to one’s inability to meet larger, more pressing deadlines required by us on a daily basis.”
Harris, who referred questions to her attorney, has long criticized the ordinance enacted in 2015 saying it is preempted by state law that requires local candidates to file financial reports with the Allegheny County Elections Division. Candidates for city office must file with the county, Pittsburgh Controller’s Office and the ethics board.
This is the second time Harris has run afoul of the ordinance. In 2017, the board fined her $1,000 after she refused to file reports during her unsuccessful campaign for mayor, according to board meeting minutes. The board never collected the money, according to Harris’ attorney, Jim Burn.
At least two other candidates who failed to file timely reports in 2017 during unsuccessful campaigns for City Council paid fines levied by the board, according to the meeting minutes.
Burn described the ordinance as unconstitutional and illegal and said Harris will not comply with it. He said Harris files her financial reports with Allegheny County as required by state law.
“If they truly think my client is doing something wrong they know how to file and we will see them there,” he said.
“Their failure to challenge our position in court reflects their awareness of the constitutional vulnerability of this specific piece of legislation.
Brentley said the ordinance is confusing and unfair. He said he didn’t become an official candidate until March 30 after the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas finished hearing challenges filed against candidates’ nominating petitions.
“I have not been an official candidate until after the court proceedings,” he said. “I am now officially on the ballot and I will submit what I have to submit by next week.”
Wolfe and Taylor said they forgot to file the paperwork and would be doing so in the near future. Fuller also said she would file a late report. Swatson declined comment and Ford could not be reached for comment.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .