York City officials can't say who approved promotion, raises for mayor's son

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

When Brandon Anderson was hired as a collection operator at the York City wastewater treatment plant in 2007, everyone who was required to do so signed the paperwork.

That included former city Mayor John Brenner, former city business administrator Michael O'Rourke, a deputy business administrator and a department manager.

But after Anderson's mother, Kim Bracey, was elected mayor in 2009, it's unclear who — if anyone — approved his personnel changes, which included a promotion to shift supervisor at the plant and three raises.

York City Mayor C. Kim Bracey speaks prior to the 23rd Annual York Bike Night Parade on Market Street in York City, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

None of those documents — turned over in response to a Right-to-Know Law request filed after Anderson allegedly assaulted Bracey at her campaign headquarters in September — were signed by anyone.

And if Bracey did approve any of those changes, she likely violated Pennsylvania's Ethics Act, according to Robert Caruso, executive director of the State Ethics Commission.

More:Son's $50K city job on the line after alleged attack on Mayor Bracey

Though there is no state law prohibiting an immediate family member of a public official from working in that official’s municipality, the state Ethics Act prohibits officials from making decisions that benefit the private interests of relatives, he said.

"If (a public official) signs off on something that results in one of their immediate family members getting a promotion or pay increase, the commission has consistently ruled" that action is a violation of the Ethics Act's conflict of interest subsection, Caruso said.

Brandon Anderson

Caruso said he is legally unable to confirm whether the State Ethics Commission has received any formal complaints or if the commission has launched an investigation.

Missing signatures: Current York City business administrator Michael Doweary could not explain the missing signatures, although he confirmed they are required. 

Asked to check again for signed copies of the documents, Doweary and Pat Siebert, the city's Right-to-Know officer, said no such paperwork exists.

Anderson's January 2011 promotion would have required the approval signatures of three officials: the mayor, the business administrator and the public works director, according to Doweary.

There also are no signatures approving his raises in May 2011, October 2011 and August 2014, though the documents clearly note — in a box, in bold face — that signatures are required for job classification, status of employment and pay-rate changes.

The document approving Anderson's 2014 raise does, however, note: "Per the Mayor's approval, employee's gross hourly rate will increase to $23.04 effective August 17, 2014."

City officials now approve promotions and raises electronically via email, Doweary said, but he could not say what process the city used in 2011, as he wasn’t an employee at the time.

“We weren’t able to find signatures,” Doweary said. “Back then, I don’t know what they were doing. We weren’t able to find anything.”

'Paper trail': Though he said he can't recall when the city transitioned to electronic approvals, former city business administrator Michael O’Rourke said any approval emails should have been kept in Anderson's employee file. 

"There should still be a paper trail," he said. "Those things should all be kept together."

O'Rourke said he never signed off on Anderson’s promotion.

The mayor has not responded to repeated questions — in person, over the phone and via email — asking if she has ever taken any action related to her son’s employment, if she signed off on his promotion and raises or if she had recused herself from decisions about Anderson prior to October. 

Bracey officially recused herself Oct. 12 from all decisions related to Anderson’s employment with the city.

Jim Gross, the city's former public works director, who also would have had to sign off on Anderson's paperwork, declined to comment when reached at his home.

More:York City mayor's son in treatment, now facing trial

Ethics Act: Anderson’s Sept. 30 arrest in an alleged attack on Bracey at her campaign headquarters highlighted her potential conflicts of interest because of their relationship.

“At what point does she put her family-member hat on and at what point does she have to have her hat on as a public official,” Caruso said at the time.

More:Mayor, mother, victim: Pa. ethics, open records experts weigh in on York assault case

Potential violations of the Ethics Act have a five-year statute of limitations, Caruso said. If Bracey signed off on her son’s 2011 promotion, that action would now fall outside the commission’s purview, but a prosecutor could still pursue charges, Caruso said.

“A criminal violation would be determined by either the attorney general or district attorney,” Caruso said. 

Caruso told The York Dispatch that Bracey should have sent all city staff a memo after taking office in January 2010, informing employees of her relationship with Anderson and making it clear that she would not take part in actions regarding his discipline, compensation or potential promotions. 

If Bracey sent out a memo like the one Caruso recommended, O’Rourke said it never reached him.

“The first time I ever heard of the mayor recusing herself from issues involving her son was when it was in the newspaper a few weeks ago,” he said.