After hours of debate (including a recess to call a member of the city law department) over Roberts Rules of Order and Council rules and customs, the Pittsburgh City Council put a three-week hold on the nominations of five Citizen’s Police Review Board members. The debate and vote comes at a time when the board, which has often been neglected in the past, has come under a microscope.
For years the CPRB has been complaining that it either did not have enough members to do its job or its members were all serving under expired terms. When the mayor submitted a list of names to the city council for review on the same day that the CPRB was arguing in court with the city solicitor the issue took on more importance. Not long after those nominations were announced a few members of Pittsburgh City Council noticed that the ordinance creating the board was so poorly written that it did not even fully outline how members should be appointed.
A long list of speakers spoke before council this morning asking members to halt the nomination process and preserve the power of the CPRB and the independence of the Council. The business portion of the meeting began with President Darlene Harris announcing that she was “holding” the bills naming five members of the board. Those members had been intervened by council last week but no vote was taken at that time. The meeting quickly devolved into name calling as members argued over the proper way to delay a vote on the nominations. Harris felt it was her prerogative to hold the nominations but others including Bill Peduto and Doug Shields argued that she did not have that power. They argued that only a majority vote of the council could delay the vote. Harris eventually allowed the names to be introduced and Councilman Daniel Lavelle moved to “postpone” a vote on the nominees until no later than July 27th. That will give the council time to deal with two amendments to the CPRB code.
CPRB Executive Director Elizabeth Pittinger says the board will continue to operate in the public’s best interest with or without the new members, but she says the actions of the mayor sent a clear message of his intent. Of the two names submitted by the mayor, two are current members and the rest would be new to the board. Of the five individuals interviewed by City Council, two are up for reappointment and the other three are nominated for appointment the first time. Members serve for a defined number of years but can serve any number of terms. Members who are not replaced or reappointed can continue to serve on the board.