Pittsburgh City Council ponders shutting down speech of its own members

Pittsburgh City Council ponders shutting down speech of its own members
Image: ESB Professional/Shutterstock

Pittsburgh City Council rewrote a proposed rule change that included a $500 penalty for members who talk publicly about closed-door meetings, but the new stipulation still could violate free-speech rights, an open meetings law expert said.

Council President Bruce Kraus on Tuesday introduced legislation that revises rules governing council’s operation that were last amended in 2011. Kraus of the South Side sponsored the bill with three other members.

Council last week was prepared to introduce a version of the rules that contained a gag order and fine for members found to be in violation of attorney-client privilege by speaking publicly about private meetings known as executive sessions. Kraus said council tweaked the legislation to censure members found to be in violation of attorney-client privilege for talking publicly about private meetings with city attorneys. The rule does not define attorney-client privilege but keeps the $500 penalty.

The previous version empowered the council president with doling out punishment to members. Kraus said that was changed to require a unanimous vote of council.

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