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City of Philadelphia

History

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics traces its roots back to 1962, when the Ethics Code was enacted by City Council in response to the recommendations of the 1962 Fordham Report. However, the all-volunteer Ethics Board had limited powers and responsibilities and never had staff to carry out its mission.

The original Ethics Board supported the legislative process necessary to produce an independent Ethics Board, and understood that the legislative process would take time. In the interim, the original Board worked to build a foundation for a robust ethics program, knowing that one day, the new, independent Ethics Board would continue to build upon.

To ensure that city officials and employees understood the ethics rules that apply to their conduct, the original Board created a Citywide Ethics Training Program Launched in September 2005. The Citywide Ethics Training Program provided ethics training to an overwhelming majority of the city’s workforce by the end of 2006. No other city in the country has trained as much of its workforce over a similar time period as we have already trained in Philadelphia.

The original Board created the Ethics Board web site. The web site is a powerful resource for anyone who seeks to learn more about the ethics rules; recent ethics legislation; or about the current Board’s activities and operation.

The original Board facilitated the distribution of the Philadelphia Code of Ethics to every city official and employee in July of 2006 and rendered advisory opinions to those seeking guidance on the ethics rules and conducted a review of conduct that raised an appearance of impropriety.

On November 27, 2006 the independent Philadelphia Board of Ethics was installed. A smooth transition was facilitated by the structure and foundation implemented by the original Board’s work, allowing the new independent Board to seamlessly take charge of providing ethics training for all city employees, enforcing city campaign finance, financial disclosure, and conflict of interest laws, as well as rendering advice, investigating complaints and issuing fines.

Functions

Acting on the recommendations of the Ethics Committee of the Twenty-First Century Review Forum, former Mayor John F. Street reconstituted the Board of Ethics by Executive Order on August 12, 2004. The Executive Order gave the Ethics Board clear responsibilities and authorized the Board to hire staff, including an Executive Director, to help the Board carry out its duties, which include:

  • Providing education and training to all city employees on the city’s ethics rules and regulations.
  • Reviewing financial disclosure forms filed by city officials and candidates for city offices to determine whether any conflicts of interest appear.
  • Responding to ethics questions raised by city officials and employees.
  • Recommending improvements or advances in laws and policies that would strengthen confidence in government and promote public trust.