Two Top Pennsylvania Officials Ask Employees To Sign Ethics Documents

Feb 6, 2017

Two of Pennsylvania’s top elected office holders used their first few days in office to address ethics-related issues by asking employees to sign pledges.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro distributed his code of conduct to every employee and he said they all voluntarily signed the document.

“This is something I thought was desperately needed to restore people’s faith in our justice system, and in particular the Attorney General’s office, given what has transpired over the last number of years,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro’s predecessor Kathleen Kane was sentenced to 10-23 months of jail time for abusing the powers of the office. 

In the meantime, Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella required all employees involved in investing the $17 billion managed by his office to sign a code of conduct.

“The basic idea of this is simple: those of us who are custodians of the public’s money should not be using any knowledge we derive by virtue of our public service for our private gain,” Torsella said. 

Torsella said, for example, an employee might know that the state is about to invest millions of dollars from a pension fund into a particular security, which could drive up the price of the stock. The employee would be prohibited from purchasing the stock with his or her own money before the state makes the investment.

He said employees with preexisting holdings in a company, which they could benefit from, would be prohibited from purchasing stocks with state funds.

The code also extends to family members and the employee’s investments, which must be disclosed to the treasurer on a quarterly basis.

Both Torsella and Shapiro said they were surprised that the employees had never been asked to sign similar documents.

“I’m not going to be able to clean up the mess that was left to me overnight, nor am I going to change everyone’s perceptions overnight, but this is an important beginning in that process,” Shapiro said.

Along with the creation of the ethics documents, both men created new positions in their offices focused on enforcing the codes.

“The Chief Integrity Officer sits just feet from my office,” Shapiro said. “I think it’s important that everyone knows just how important his position is and the importance I put on conducting ourselves with integrity.”

Torsella said the code is just a “common sense idea.”