Archive: January, 2009
Divorce is difficult. So imagine going through a divorce, getting indicted on federal corruption charges and then sitting in a courtroom as your former divorce attorney and a prosecutor page through your expanding legal bills while a jury ponders your fate. That's the kind of afternoon Chris Wright, the former chief of staff for City Councilman Jack Kelly is having.
Prosecutors say Wright was bribed in part with free legal work on his divorce from Andrew Teitelman, Kelly's campaign treasurer, after Wright gave up on an expensive attorney. The first attorney, now testifying, burned through Wright's $5,000 retainer in under two months. Wright's bill rose to more than $6,700 before he terminated her services.
Wright's estranged wife has told the Daily News she was interviewed four times in 2007 by FBI agents investigating his relationship with Teitelman and brothers Hardeep and Ravinder Chawla, two real estate developers. Teitelman, a friend of Wright's, represents many of the Chawla family businesses.
Following through on a promise from last June, Mayor Nutter today re-invented the Penn's Landing Corp., which dissolved itself and was replaced by the new Delaware River Waterfront Corp. The new entity, Nutter promises, will be more open to the public and expand its focus to cover more of the water front.
You can read Nutter's announcement after the jump.
MAYOR NUTTER APPOINTS DELAWARE RIVER WATERFRONT CORPORATION
Establishment of new group fulfills objectives of Action Plan for the Central Delaware
Philadelphia, January 30 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter has appointed members to the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC), the new organization which has replaced the Penn’s Landing Corporation.
The opening testimony in the federal corruption trial of Chris Wright, City Councilman Jack Kelly's former chief of staff and four of his political allies, has focused on allegations that Wright was bribed in part with a rent-free apartment and parking space near Rittenhouse square. Prosecutors say that was worth more than $15,000.
The building was one of one of nine buildings Ravinder Chawla had a contract to buy in 2006. He “flipped” those properties at the last minute to another company, taking a profit as the middleman in the deal. Before that happened, prosecutors say, Chawla and his attorney, Andrew Teitelman, struck a deal with the owner to let Wright move in to the building.
Defense attorneys claim the apartment was “a dump” with no heat and a rodent problem. And they insist Chawla never owned the building. Prosecutors call it a “very livable apartment in a premiere neighborhood” of the city. They're trying to show that Chawla had some control of the property for a crucial period when Wright moved in.
Here's a sad economic model: Economy goes into decline, bank robberies increase.
Was Chris Wright, City Councilman Jack Kelly's former chief of staff, greedy or needy when he took money and other help from his boss's political allies? A jury considers.
In another federal courtroom, the top attorney for former state Sen. Vince Fumo breaks down during testimony.
Catherine LuceyTomorrow is the deadline for city department heads to turn in scenarios that show what cuts of 10, 20 or 30 percent would do to their budgets. We heard a little bit about this at yesterday's PhillyStat meeting.
Mayor Nutter says he doesn't know what's in the reports, but he says the budget process -- as the city seeks to cut $1 billion over the next five years -- will be tough.
"There will be no good choices," said Nutter, who promised that the options will be made public before the first community budget workshop on Feb. 12. "This will be a very challenging, almost horrible process to go through."
Catherine LuceyThis just in from City Controller Alan Butkovitz:
Local Home Prices Predicted to Take Significant Decline
Prices were not as bad as National figure but that could change due to major drop in sales
PHILADELPHIA – City Controller Alan Butkovitiz today released the Monthly Economic Snapshot and Monthly Economic Forecast Review for December that shows local home prices could start to decline because of the major decrease in housing sales.
Catherine LuceyMayor Nutter today celebrated the success of a joint state-city effort to enroll low income Philly seniors in federal and state benefit programs. Since the BenePhilly campaign kicked off in September, 6,000 residents have signed up for benefits worth about $16.7 million.
"This money belongs to Philadelphians who for whatever reason they may not know they qualify," Nutter said. "Please help our fellow Philadelphians, especially at this critical time, get the benefits they need."
For four months, the campaign targeted 60,000 low-income elderly Philadelphians believed to be eligible for programs like Medicare, Food Stamps and property and rent rebates. Efforts to reach those without benefits will continue in 2009, but with less state support. Nutter said he hoped to step up work at the city level, through health centers or constituent service outreach.
Chris BrennanWe’re almost done with opening arguments in the federal corruption trial for City Councilman Jack Kelly’s former chief of staff and three political allies. A couple of themes are emerging from the defense. One – This all started when the FBI showed up at Jack Kelly’s house one morning and said they were investigating him. And two – Kelly’s chief of staff, Chris Wright, is an alcoholic who relapsed after rehab while going through a divorce and had friends who tried to help him with money and a place to live.
Those friends? Andy Teitelman, Kelly’s campaign treasurer and real estate developers Hardeep and Ravinder Chawla, brothers who have supported Kelly with campaign contributions.
“You’ll hear evidence that Councilman Kelly was a deer in the headlights,” Teitelman’s attorney, Bill DeStefano told the jury when explaining why Kelly secretly recorded conversations for federal investigators with Wright and Ravinder Chawla. “He didn’t think his chief of staff did anything wrong.”