Ethics Board wants more money from Nutter budget

Mayor Nutter last year backed a bill to create Philadelphia's first law requiring lobbyists to register with the city, injecting at least a little bit more light into the closed-door sessions lobbyists frequently have with public officials.

But with the law set to go into effect July 1, the Philadelphia Board of Ethics, charged with implementing the new rules, says it doesn't right now have the ability to make it happen.

At issue is $130,000 that the board says it needs to hire three new staffers to account for the tedious work involved in getting a lobbyist registration unit up and running - and maintaining it.

"In a larger agency, it might be possible to distribute new tasks throughout a larger staff, but with our small staff of eight, it is increasingly more difficult to absorb additional work," Ethics Board member William Brown said during a hearing on the board's fiscal 2012 budget today.

The mayor's budget includes a total of $810,000 for the board - the same budget the board has had since three years ago. Before that, the Ethics Board received $1 million in funds, as required by City Charter referendum by which it was created.

Nutter's budget director, Rebecca Rhynhart, said during the hearing that the mayor did not choose to give the Ethics Board more money in spite of the new lobbying registration requirements, which will require lobbyists to register and file quarterly reports of their activities and expenses.

"It's something we tell departments all of the time: You have to do more with less," Rhynhart said, noting what has been a challenging economic environment.

Councilman Bill Green was perplexed. "It seems to me since we passed it, and the mayor signed it, we now have the obligation to fund it," he said.

Rhynhart responded, "We can definately have that discussion with you."

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