8 Pittsburgh council candidates miss deadline for filing financial reports | TribLIVE.com

8 Pittsburgh council candidates miss deadline for filing financial reports

Bob Bauder
Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Darlene Harris.

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.

Harris, 66, of Spring Hill has refused to file reports with the city, contending they are illegal, unconstitutional and unenforceable.

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 .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.