PA State Rep. Brian Sims under investigation for alleged ethics violations

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Pennsylvania State Rep. Brian Sims — the Keystone State’s first LGBTQ lawmaker — reportedly is under investigation by a state commission for allegedly accepting speaking fees and travel reimbursements, a violation of the state’s ethics law.

Ethics Commission Executive Director Robert P. Caruso wrote, in a letter dated March 31 obtained by Philadelphia Gay News: “The Investigative Division of the State Ethics Commission has initiated a full investigation in relation to the complaint” filed by an unnamed person.

Caruso told PGN he was not permitted to comment on the investigation or the complaint.

“Confidentiality requirements in the law preclude me or any members of the commission or commission staff either confirming or denying the existence of an investigation or if we even received a complaint,” he said.

Sims issued a statement in response to the report, saying his “office learned recently that a complaint had been lodged against me, presumably for the civil rights and equality lecturing that I perform. Transparency and ethics have always been at the forefront of my work and every term I have served, I have sought and received advice from House legal counsel that my lectures are ethical and legal based on the State Ethics Commission’s 91-004 Baker Opinion and established precedent.”

According to the report, the complaint cited five news stories published last fall that raised questions about Sims’ travel reimbursements; one was a PGN story from October, titled “Sims scrutinized for travel expenses and speaking fees.”

The report alleged that “Sims failed to properly report thousands of dollars in travel reimbursements [in 2015] while collecting more than $42,000 in speaking fees since his election in 2012.” Another article cited a speech Sims gave at Penn State University about “his career as a legislator” and on his “current legislation before the House.”

“I can’t stop my political opponents from wanting this to be an issue but the continuity of the work I began before taking office to foster understanding and tolerance is moral, legal and ethical,” Sims said in his statement to PGN. “It is the state’s duty to ensure the integrity of our government and a review of this work, and the transparency with which I’ve approached it, will make that clear.”

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