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Allegheny County councilman fights ethics rules in defense of job with state senator

Aaron Aupperlee
| Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, 11:47 p.m.

An Allegheny County Councilman who works for the state Senate said he intends to challenge county ethics rules that prohibit council members from working for elected officials.

Councilman Bob Macey, D-West Mifflin, works part time as a constituent services representative based in Sen. Jim Brewster's Mc-Keesport office.

“My role is as a public servant. And if I'm here in the capacity of a county councilman or if in the capacity of an employee of the Pennsylvania Senate, as long as I'm helping someone, I don't see where the problem is,” Macey said.

Macey's Mon Valley council district overlaps with Brewster's Allegheny and Westmoreland county senatorial district.

The county's Accountability, Conduct and Ethics Code prohibits council members from being employed on the personal staff of any local, state or federal elected official and from being employed by a legislative body to work as personal staff to an elected official.

Macey, 65, said he would challenge the ethics code if need be.

The county's Accountability, Conduct and Ethics Commission does not disclose the names of people named in complaints until a case is closed, said Laura Zaspel, a commission staff member. The commission received one complaint in 2013. It was filed in December and is under investigation, she said.

Jack Cambest, county council's solicitor, said Macey talked to him before taking the job in Brewster's office. Cambest cleared Macey to accept the position and did not further investigate the job, he said.

Macey has been on council since 2006.

Brewster hired Macey on Oct. 29, said Tim Joyce, Brewster's chief of staff.

Macey had retired five months earlier as director of business development and community relations at Century Heritage Federal Credit Union in West Mifflin.

Macey makes $21.15 an hour as a constitutent services representative, according to online state records. County council members make $9,000 a year.

“Can you really serve two masters adequately?” asked Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, an advocacy group that promotes government accountability. “Will his or her judgment be skewed to keep his job with the state senator?”

Keith Schmidt, who worked on the founding documents of Allegheny County Council and is the owner of Bridge Connections, a Downtown public relations and government affairs consulting firm, said Macey's employment with Brewster will give his decisions an “air of impropriety.”

County Councilman Jim Ellenbogen, D-Banksville, defended Macey. Ellenbogen, the chief enforcement officer for the state Department of Revenue, was blocked from serving on council, because of his job because the ethics code at the time prohibited members for working in state government. Ellenbogen challenged the language, and won, and council re-wrote the code to allow certain state employees to serve on council.

“Bob's a sensible guy,” Ellenbogen said. “If Bob saw anything that looked weird, he'd recuse himself.”

Joyce said the senator isn't concerned. Macey's role on the council gives him access the senator deems valuable, Joyce said.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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