Philadelphia ethics board fines education group $1,500

    The Philadelphia Board of Ethics has fined the Philadelphia School Partnership, and education policy group, $1,500 for violating the city’s lobbyist disclosure law.

    The nonprofit partnership invests in traditional public, charter and private schools it regards as innovative, as well as advocating for government policies that give school administrators more flexibility.

    Shane Creamer, ethics board executive director, said the group should have registered in 2012 under a city law requiring disclosure of lobbying activities. That year, the partnership spent more than $14,000 on activities including flying city and school district officials to Denver to visit a charter school.

    Creamer says the board looked into the PSP’s activities after getting a complaint. The partnership was very cooperative, so the fines it owed were substantially reduced, he said.

    The case is instructive for organizations that may not think of themselves as traditional lobbyists, but that engage in advocacy work, Creamer said.

    “It’s important that we have complete and accurate accounting of all paid efforts to influence decision making,” Creamer said in an interview. “And I think this is a great example of how careful firms need to be, and lobbyists need to be, and to make sure they’re disclosing everything they should be disclosing.”

    The partnership said in a statement it now understand that its activities amounted to lobbying under the city law, and appreciates the ethics board’s cooperative approach in identifying its mistakes.

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