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Pittsburgh Councilwoman Darlene Harris Sues City Over Campaign Finance Laws

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Outgoing City Councilwoman Darlene Harris is suing the city of Pittsburgh, Mayor Bill Peduto and the Ethics Hearing Board and its chairperson over campaign finance reporting rules.

The lawsuit says Harris should not have to pay any fines to the Ethics Board because the city never had the right to pass the ordinance in the first place.

Attorney James Burn is representing Harris in the legal matter. "The city tried to say, in addition to what you are already required to do, well we are going to throw some more hoops, burdens and barricades at you."

The civil suit dates back to 2017 when Harris ran unsuccessfully for mayor. It came up again this year when she failed to retain her seat on City Council. The Ethics Hearing Board fined her $4,150 for failure to file campaign documents with the city. Her attorney says Pennsylvania law -- not Pittsburgh ordinances -- is the only body authorized to request such information.

"The venue and the forum and the appropriate location to have that conversation is through the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at the state level," says Burn who was elected mayor of Millvale in 1993. "If it is a federal concern, then we take it up with our federal representation, but not at the city level."

Mayor Bill Peduto dismissed the lawsuit saying it was a last ditch effort by an outgoing Council member who has been a longtime opponent of the city's financial reporting requirements.

At the heart of the issue, Burn says the lawsuit clams Pittsburgh overreached its bounds. It says the city, the mayor, and the ethics committee levied a fine they are not authorized to request or collect.

They want the campaign reporting requirements to be eliminated.

"We request the ordinances be stricken, the city be enjoined from enforcing such ordinance or enacting such ordinance again, and that any fines or attempts to fine my client be eliminated."

The civil lawsuit was filed in Allegheny County three-and-a-half weeks before Harris concludes her term on City Council.

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