A small group of Pittsburghers want to impeach Mayor Peduto, but the effort is almost certainly unconstitutional | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

A small group of Pittsburghers want to impeach Mayor Peduto, but the effort is almost certainly unconstitutional

A Mount Washington woman gathered just 30 signatures and attempted to file the petition. She should probably just take the loss.

click to enlarge A small group of Pittsburghers want to impeach Mayor Peduto, but the effort is almost certainly unconstitutional
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Bill Peduto at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Oct. 27, 2018
There are a lot of things that rile up Pittsburghers about Mayor Bill Peduto. Bike lanes, lead in the drinking water, and secret Amazon bids have motivated residents to yell at Peduto in person or on social media.

But new anger over City Council’s new gun-restriction proposals, which Peduto supports, is reaching a fever pitch with a small group of people. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Brooke Nadonley of Mount Washington described Peduto’s recent actions, particularly his support for gun-restrictions, as “malfeasance.”

“We’re hoping that additional citizens beyond the required number on the petition will forward and speak for their reasons to impeach the mayor at that hearing,” said Nadonley to the P-G.

Peduto barked back today on Twitter.
Nadonley, who is also chair of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County’s 2nd District, gathered 30 signatures, but did not actually file the paperwork.

That was probably for the best, as trying to impeach a mayor in Pennsylvania without the state government getting involved is almost certainly unconstitutional.

According to Pittsburgh City Paper’s former editor Chris Potter, the city’s home rule charter requires 20 signatures on a petition stating a cause for removal. The petition is then reviewed by a Common Pleas Court judge and if the cause is sufficient, City Council sits in judgment and votes on whether to remove the mayor.

As stated in a 2003 CP article by Potter, when the idea to impeach Mayor Tom Murphy was also being floated, “according to a 1995 state Supreme Court decision, In re Petition to Recall Reese, the only means of removing a local official from office is under the terms of Article VI, section 7 of the constitution.”

That provision holds that the removal process must go through the state legislature in Harrisburg, not City Council.

During that same Murphy-impeachment news cycle, Murphy’s former lawyer David Hickton backed this up by saying in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that only the state legislature has the power to impeach mayors, and the governor is the sole power able to actually remove a mayor from office.

"Under the separation of powers, this court has no power to impeach an elected official," Hickton said in 2003. Hickton went on to become U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania under President Barack Obama.

And if state legislators were to get involved, it usually takes something more salacious and controversial than trying to pass bills some residents don’t like. According to the state constitution, the state House would have to vote to remove a mayor or the governor would have to request it. Then two-thirds of the state Senate would have to agree. The political will to accomplish such a vote would have to be incredibly high.

The irony shouldn’t be lost, however. The strongest criticism of the Peduto-backed gun-registration bills is that they would violate the preemption clause in state constitution. As The Incline reports, a new statewide law would be needed to allow Pittsburgh to pass gun-control laws that wouldn’t be struck down by legal challenges.

So, the effort to impeach Peduto is basically hampered by the same kind of rule that will likely hamper Peduto’s effort to restrict guns in the city.

But none of that stopped Peduto and Nadonley from screaming past each other, into the wind.

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