PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – A group called Protect Our Parks has filed a formal complaint with the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission about County Councilman Nicholas Futules’s involvement with the possible fracking lease at Deer Lakes Park.
Timothy Ludwig of Etna filed the complaint through the coalition of over 30 grassroots groups, environmental non-profits and individual citizens, who together represent more than 30,000 residents of Allegheny County. Members of Protect Our Parks< commit themselves to keep drilling out of Allegheny County parks.
“The state does an ethics code and he would be breaking two of those,” said Ludwig. “The state ethics code has a part in it where any member of a government body has a contract value of over $500 with a party that they are now discussing going under contract with, that member has to recuse themself from that debate.”
Ludwig adds that they must remove themselves from any supervising or overall implementation of it. But in the case of Futules, currently he is the Chair of the Parks Committee and is in charge of steering the debates of fracking.
The basis of Ludwig’s complaint is that Councilman Futules received two previous letters requesting he remove himself from the decision making process but never did. According to Protect Our Parks, the councilman’s family has its own fracking lease with Huntley & Huntley in Oakmont that he says generates $1 million or more.
As Chair of the Committee on Parks, Futules is believed by this group to be participating improperly in the final decision of drilling. Protect Our Parks believes that Allegheny County Executive, Rich Fitzgerald, is encouraging his involvement because he needs the support to allow drilling.
“Totally frivolous, it’s absolutely unbelievable,” Fitzgerald said. “These people, and with a few members of council who are helping them, including your (Mike Pintek’s) friend Heather Heidelbaugh, are trying to do everything they can to basically usurp the democratic process.”
Fitzgerald believes this is a good deal for the people in Deer Lakes and the communities of West Deer and Frasier. But for the past year, as this proposal has been discussed, groups have been trying to stop the process. So this doesn’t surprise Fitzgerald who was ready and expected more backlash.
“Yeah, now I guess they want to raise taxes, so they want to leave the parks in a bad condition,” said Fitzgerald. “I guess they also don’t want environmental protections for the people in Frasier Township because that’s what this lease does. This 81-page lease is the most comprehensive non-surface lease in Pennsylvania and even if the county didn’t get any money, there is protection in there for fire safety, for water testing, for road maintenance, lights, or sound, etc.”
Allegheny County Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh says that right now she is still undecided on how she will vote for the drilling lease. She stands behind the Supreme Court case that requires a rigorous analysis before going ahead with fracking.
“I stand in their shoes because I’m the at-large member for every single person in Allegheny County who owns this resource,” said Heidelbaugh. “What I’m trying to do is review you as an owner, this vast resource to make sure that A. we get what’s do us for this resource and that it’s done appropriately, pursue into law and because it’s a 20-year lease, that there are protections in place.”
She added that she finds it odd that County Executive Rich Fitzgerald calls what she is doing as obstruction. Heidelbaugh says that what she does is question everything that is going on to help come to the correct solution. She says every time Fitzgerald calls anyone an obstructionist who questions him.