Thursday, July 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Acting Sheriff Fires Senior Staffers, Hires Former City Controller To Review Contracts

3:45 PM: This post has been updated.

Acting Sheriff Fires Senior Staffers, Hires Former City Controller To Review Contracts

3:45 PM: This post has been updated.

Acting Sheriff Barbara Deeley today announced a major reorganization of the embattled sheriff’s office, moving to dismiss several top staffers and bringing in a former City Controller to serve as her number two.

Deeley also said that sheriff’s sales would be suspended for fifty days due to the changes. Her new chief deputy Joe Vignola said Mayor Nutter and Common Pleas Court President Judge Pam Dembe had been notified of the changes.

Vignola, who also served as a City Councilman, said he would focus on helping the office comply with a pending forensic audit ordered by City Controller Alan Butkovitz.

“I’ve been brought on board to ensure complete compliance with the forensic audit and coordinate all the agencies that are necessary to accomplish that.,” said Vignola, whose salary will be about $94,000.

Deeley became acting sheriff when longtime Sheriff John Green offered his resignation last Friday. Green had said he was going to leave before his term ended in January 2012, but those plans were postponed in late October when a dispute between his office and the City Controller’s Office broke into the public.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz complained that the Sheriff’s Office had stymied his efforts at a routine audit of three bank accounts. Butkovitz then ordered a complete forensic audit of 11 bank accounts held by the Sheriff’s Office. Butkovitz, in preparing the request for proposals, made clear that he questions whether hundreds of millions of dollars have been mismanaged by the Sheriff’s Office.

Deeley will face a difficult time having her nomination confirmed by the Republican-controlled state Senate. Gov.-elect Tom Corbett, who takes office on Jan. 18, is expected to recall Deeley’s nomination and submit his own pick for the post.

Three staffers were suspended with pay today, pending termination in 30 days. They are: Tyrone Bynum, Director of Finance and Compliance, Crystal Stewart, Real Estate Supervisor and Edward Chew, a solicitor. Daryl Stewart, Director of Real Estate, was assigned to a different office.

In 2005, Daryl Stewart was suspended pending an investigation into Stewart's private deals involving sheriff's-sale properties. That investigation was prompted by Daily News reporting on deals done by Stewart and his wife Crystal Smith Stewart.

Deeley today also severed ties with Reach Communications and RCS Searchers and all title companies currently doing business with the Sheriff’s Office. RCS Searchers and Reach are owned by Crystal Stewart’s brother James Davis.

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2:40 p.m. Changes are underway from acting Sheriff Barbara Deeley, whose appointment remains in question. Here's the release from her office:

SHERIFF DEELEY SEPERATES SENIOR STAFF FROM FINANCE AND REAL ESTATE DIVISIONS

TERMINATES ALL BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS WITH REACH COMMUNICATIONS; HIRES FORMER CITY CONTROLLER JOE VIGNOLA TO REVIEW ALL EXISTING CONTRACTS OF REAL ESTATE DIVISION

ISSUES 50-DAY MORATORIUM ON ALL SHERIFF SALES

For Immediate Release

Philadelphia Sheriff, Barbara Deeley, today placed the following senior staff members on immediate leave with pay pending their separation on February 7, 2011.

Tyrone Bynum, Director of Finance and Compliance
Edward Chew, Solicitor
Crystal Stewart, Real Estate Supervisor

Sheriff Deeley has re-assigned Daryl Stewart, Director of Real Estate, outside of the Real Estate Division effective immediately.

In addition, Sheriff Deeley has terminated all agreements and business relationships with Reach Communications and RCS Searchers and all title companies currently doing business with the Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff has appointed former City Controller, Joe Vignola, to the newly-created position of Chief Deputy for Finance and Accountability. Mr. Vignola’s first task will be to review all agreements and contracts signed by the Real Estate Division of the Sheriff’s Office and spearhead an internal accounting of all Real Estate Division transactions.

In light of the impact that these moves will have on the ability of the Sheriff’s Office to conduct real estate sales, Sheriff Deeley has issued a 50-day moratorium on all sheriff sales effective immediately.

Sheriff Deeley said, “My actions today have been taken in full consultation with President Judge Pamela Dembe. I intend to work closely with Judge Dembe in the coming weeks to restructure the Real Estate Division of the Sheriff’s Office.”

Deeley continued: “These steps have been taken in full cognizance of the important work done by City Controller Alan Butkovitz in auditing the Sheriff’s Office. The findings in his report are, in large part, the impetus for the actions I have taken today.”

Deeley concluded: “My actions are in no way a reflection on the integrity and work ethic of the men and women who continue to work in the Sheriff’s Office. These men and women, some of whom risk their lives every day, continue to have my full confidence and respect.”

 

About this blog
Chris Brennan, a native Philadelphian and graduate of Temple University, joined the Daily News in 1999. He has written about SEPTA, the Philadelphia School District, the legalization of casino gambling, state government, the mayor, the governor, City Council and political campaigns. E-mail tips to brennac@phillynews.com
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Jenny DeHuff is a 2005 graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she cut her teeth in journalism. A South Philly transplant from New England, she joined the Daily News City Hall Bureau in 2013. For the past several years, she has worked as an investigative reporter exposing corruption in suburban politics, covering sometimes ghastly criminal court cases and following the people’s money and how its spent. In addition to being a dogged news hound, she enjoys reading and writing about travel, animals, Irish whiskey and aviation. E-mail tips to dehuffj@phillynews.com
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Sean Collins Walsh is from Bucks County and went to Northwestern University. He joined the Daily News copy desk in 2012 and now covers the Nutter administration. Before that, he interned at papers including The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News and The Seattle Times. E-mail tips to walshSE@phillynews.com
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