Funny, wasn't it less than a week ago that we were talking about the rot of corruption here in Philadelphia, and the frustrating fact that dishonest pols or crooked cops tend to get away with it here, even after they've been publicly exposed?
CITY COUNCILWOMAN Blondell Reynolds Brown has been mentioned as a possible mayoral candidate in 2015. If elected, she'd be Philadelphia's first female mayor.
Maybe that talk was premature.
Brown, an at-large Democrat serving her fourth term, is the focus of a blistering report issued by the city Board of Ethics that details years of sloppy bookkeeping - and potential criminal activity involving her campaign finances.
The settlement agreement approved Monday requires Brown and her campaign committee to pay a whopping $48,834 and submit to Ethics Board oversight after board investigators discovered that she'd deposited campaign contributions into her personal account and failed to disclose transactions.
If Joe Biden were writing this, he'd call it a BFD...because in the local political world, this is a big deal. The ethics panel didn't find one lone trangression by Brown that can be plausibly denied as a solitary mistake. Instead, we have a pattern of shady financial transactions, and intentional deception to cover her tracks. At the center of it all is an off-the-books personal bailout -- tapping campaign funds -- that on some level involved a) a sitting U.S. congressman and b) that congressman's son, whose actions had already been under investigation by the FBI. So here's a few things to consider:
1) That whole thing about how people get away with corruption in Philadelphia is about to get a pretty good test. Will Brown walk away with what amounts to a slap on the wrist and some damage to her reputation? Or will more serious charges result? Hopefully the latter.
2) In the past I've given Nutter a mixed-to-positive rating, and the main reason for the slight positive bias was the lack of corruption in his administration compared to his predecessors (see "Street, John"). Well...now here's a big blemish. Why did Nutter give a high-paying job to Brown's campaign manager -- a pol with a dodgy past that included a widely publicized City Charter violation? Shame on you, Michael Nutter. Between that and the fact that Philadelphia's policing remains mired in the 20th Century, your administration is now rated mixed-to-negative by Attytood.
3) I did have one personal reaction to the Brown story that I found odd, and must be a sign of creeping old age. I felt a small tinge of sympathy for Brown, and let me explain before y'all crucify me. As someone in my 50s (as Brown, now 60, also was when this went down in 2011) I've seen a lot of people in my age group struggling with three things a) divorce, which can cause remarkable financial hardship b) sending a kid or kids to good colleges, which can cause remarkable financial hardship and c) taking care of an elderly parent, which can cause remarkable financial hardship. Brown hit the trifecta of all three, and so it's not surprising that the bank was foreclosing on her house and that she desperately needed cash. She wasn't building a mansion with gold doorknobs or toilet fixtures. Still, that kind of mess isn't a license to act unethically. That's why she needs to face the music.
4) That music will surely drown out her hope of becoming mayor in 2015, I predict. That's also ironic, since we're mourning the passing of Happy Fernandez, the first and last high-profile woman to seek the Philadelphia mayorality. It's a shame that here in the 21st Century her torch is still waiting to get picked up.