As a member of Pittsburgh City Council who is also the golf coach at Central Catholic High School, Corey O’Connor has had to abstain on votes, such as zoning requests during the schools 2016 expansion, that would be a conflict of interest.
While that doesn’t happen too often, O’Connor of District 5 wants it to be easier for Pittsburghers to find and know more information about their elected officials.
On Tuesday, he plans to introduce legislation that would create a new chapter in the city’s Code of Ordinances. It would call for a website to house information about elected officials, including other employment, affiliations with city departments and groups, professional organizations and political committees. It would also provide that information about lobbyists representing Pittsburgh in Harrisburg and Washington D.C.
Officials already submit annual forms with this information to the Controller’s Office, but the creation of a website would make that information easier for residents to find.
Per the soon-to-be proposed legislation, staff in the controller’s office would upload those documents to a website in an easy to read format. O’Connor said he’s talked with the Controller’s staff and doesn’t anticipate added costs to create and maintain this database. The website would also include elected officials’ salaries and official websites.
Currently, residents need to do research or make a records request to find this information.
A lot of the information is already available, just in different locations, said Doug Anderson, deputy controller. For example, some lobbyist information and campaign finance is on OpenBook Pittsburgh and the disclosure of interest forms are posted online, so this is really about bringing those all together, he said.
The controller’s office is already doing a lot of what’s being asked and supports government transparency, Anderson said.
O’Connor said he was filling out the forms this year when his office started to think about ways to make that information more accessible, creating a more transparent government. It’s a way to streamline it and “to get everything in one package,” he said, adding that residents might not know who the city’s lobbyists are or that Pittsburgh even has lobbyists representing the city.
The new resource would help residents to be local government watchdogs and is also a way for them to learn more about their officials and what they do outside of work, O’Connor said. Read a draft of his legislation here: