by Chris Potter
The Post-Gazette is reporting that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl plans to replace all seven members of the Citizen Police Review Board. Reportedly, Ravenstahl is doing so in large part because -- surprise, surprise -- the board members are all serving on expired terms:
Don't say you weren't warned, though honestly -- I'm kicking myself in the ass right now for not seeing this coming. After all, even as I type this the review board is pushing its investigation of the city's handling of G-20 security, even seeking to hold the police chief in contempt of court for allegedly withholding information the board is seeking.
But I'm actually not at all sure the mayor has the power to do what the Post-Gazette claims he is trying to pull off. As the story has it:
Mayor Ravenstahl is replacing the entire Citizen Police Review Board.
Mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven confirmed that the mayor is naming new members to the board.
Yeah, well, let's see what the city code has to say about that, shall we? Under the law, four members of the board are appointed by council. And the code says that
In appointing Board members to fill vacancies, if the vacancy has been created by the departure, for whatever reason, of one (1) of the four (4) Board members appointed from City Council's nominations, the Mayor shall fill such vacancy by appointing the Board member from a new list of three (3) nominations submitted by Council.
So as I read this, in four out of seven cases, the mayor CANNOT unilaterally start naming board replacements. Council will have to weigh in on that.
In fact, I'm not even sure he can declare those positions vacant at all. No board members at all have "depart[ed]" from their post, after all. And the mayor's office has told City Paper before that there is nothing wrong with having board members serve on expired terms. Gabe Mazefsky has previously told us "the law permits board members to serve after their terms expire, until a replacement is named. 'There is no problem there,' he says.
So I'm not certain under what authority the mayor is pulling the trigger on the four board members outside his power to appoint. Apparently, Ravenstahl is claiming that at least some board members no longer live in the city, which would make their positions vacant. I'll be looking into that claim now. But unless all four of council's appointees have moved outside of city limits, he may well be overstepping himself.
More details to come.