County Controller Corey O’Connor and county Treasurer John Weinstein went back and forth on an ethics reform motion during Thursday’s retirement board meeting. O’Connor, board secretary, introduced the motion that would direct the county solicitor to update the board’s policies on campaign contribution standards and requirements. 

Changes would prohibit the board from employing professional services contractors who contribute to political campaigns for Allegheny County offices, have business relationships with retirement board or county officials, or who provide gifts to board members or staff. 

The county’s seven-member retirement board directs the administration and investment of retirement contributions and provides direction for the county employee retirement system.

Weinstein, board president and county executive hopeful, called for a subcommittee to go over the act before further discussion. He said he hadn’t had the time to delve into the motion yet, having just received it. 

Weinstein recommended the subcommittee be chaired by budget manager Sarah Roka and consist of O’Connor, board member Frank J. DiCristofaro, board solicitor Brian Gabriel and deputy treasurer Janice Vinci. 

O’Connor told the board that other cities and counties have similar acts. In fact, he said, Allegheny County Council is currently looking at similar changes in the name of transparency. 

“It makes our board, as well as in conjunction with County Council, more transparent,” O’Connor said. “I think the conversations, especially from my office’s standpoint, is transparency and, not that anything’s wrong with the board — I’m not saying that — but when you’re looking at governments long term, more transparency and more openness doesn’t hurt, and our job, for my office, is to look at that stuff.”

O’Connor called for a vote on Thursday so the solicitor could incorporate the changes into the board’s policies and present them for a vote at April’s meeting.

“The solicitor will be part of the subcommittee that will come back to the board with a recommendation — where it fits, where it goes, and how we move forward with it,” Weinstein told O’Connor. “There’s no need for a motion [today]. It doesn’t make any sense. … No one’s saying they’re against the idea, but it’s not worded right. It’s not in the bounds of the law correctly.”

Discussion on the subject concluded when the board voted 4-3 to table the motion with County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, county Manager and Fitzgerald’s chief of staff Jennifer Liptak and O’Connor in opposition and Weinstein, former county employee Ted Puzak, current county employee DiCristofaro and Roka in favor. 

Previously, Weinstein has been under fire for using his position to help supporters and donors. More than two decades ago, Weinstein proposed a change to the county’s pension fund that critics argued would make it easier for him and other board members to award contracts to campaign donors. 

The firms of several Weinstein campaign donors have been awarded contracts from the retirement board, according to news reports.

Erica Brusselars, a professional pension actuary and educator who is running for Weinstein’s seat as treasurer, spoke in support of the motion during the Thursday meeting. She called the motion an “important first step” to building trust. 

“This change closes a current avenue for individual board members or staff to personally benefit at the expense of plan members, taxpayers and the public trust,” Brusselars said. 

“Leading a $1 billion pension fund with promises two or three times that amount is a huge responsibility that members, residents and businesses of this county need to be assured that those responsible for this plan are always focused on their fiduciary responsibilities,” she said.

Hannah is a reporter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she's currently on strike. Email her

Hannah Wyman

Hannah is a reporter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she's currently on strike. Email her