Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has appointed Temple Law Dean JoAnne A. Epps to a five-year term on the city’s Board of Ethics. Epps will replace Rev. C. Kevin Gillespie, whose five-year term ends this month. Gillespie is president at St. Joseph’s University but will be stepping down in June.
“I did not seek this nomination,” Epps testified at her confirmation hearing, “but I was honored to receive it. I believe that all of us owe our community some portion of our day’s service. I would be honored to contribute my efforts to the City’s Board of Ethics.” Epps cited her long history of public service in Philadelphia, her decades of involvement with the Philadelphia legal community, and her prior record of service to the city as evidence of her commitment to Philadelphia and her reputation for integrity, honesty, and fairness. “My history, my activities, and my heart are in Philadelphia,” Epps remarked. “A member of the Board of Ethics needs to be honest, fair, objective, and passionate about maintaining the public’s trust in government. If confirmed, I promise to bring all these qualities to the Board of Ethics.”
Epps’ confirmation means that the five-member panel will be composed entirely of lawyers, whom she has long held have a special obligation not just to serve their communities but to uphold the public’s trust in government – a goal she promises to pursue “passionately.” Epps has written extensively about the role of lawyers in upholding public trust in government and the rule of law on her blog and elsewhere, and challenges each graduating class in her commencement remarks to make public service a personal and professional priority.
Epps has more than met that challenge in her own career. A member of the Pennsylvania bar, Epps has been a member of the city’s legal community since 1980. Until nominated for the Board of Ethics (at which point she resigned), Epps was a member of the Board of Directors of the Committee of Seventy. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Defender Association of Philadelphia and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, the Advisory Board of the Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia, and the Advisory Board of the Pennsylvania Prison Society. Epps is a member of the Forum of Executive Women, and the current President of the Pennsylvania Women’s Forum, both Philadelphia-based organizations.
Epps also has a history of service to the City of Philadelphia. In 2001, she was appointed by Mayor John Street to chair the Mayor’s Task Force on Police Discipline. And in 2011, she was appointed by United States District Judge Stewart Dalzell to serve as the independent monitor of the settlement of Bailey v. City of Philadelphia, the city’s stop-and-frisk litigation. Her approval by the lawyers for both sides of that dispute is evidence of Epps’ reputation for fairness and integrity.
The five-member independent Philadelphia Board of Ethics was established by ordinance, approved by voters in May 2006, and installed on November 27, 2006. It traces its roots back to 1962, when the Ethics Code was enacted by City Council in response to the recommendations of the 1962 Fordham Report.