Friday, February 27, 2015

Bedlam at City Commission on salaries, promotions & hires

With seven weeks to go until the Nov. 6 general election, the Philadelphia City Commission held its first public meeting in months and quickly descended into bureaucratic bedlam as the three members and staffers debated, shouted and complained about new hires, promotions and salaries.

Bedlam at City Commission on salaries, promotions & hires

City Commission Chairwoman Stephanie Singer (left) clashed with colleagues Al Schmidt (right) and Anthony Clarke at Wednesday´s public meeting on staff moves.
City Commission Chairwoman Stephanie Singer (left) clashed with colleagues Al Schmidt (right) and Anthony Clarke at Wednesday's public meeting on staff moves.

With seven weeks to go until the Nov. 6 general election, the Philadelphia City Commission held its first public meeting in months and quickly descended into bureaucratic bedlam as the three members and staffers debated, shouted and complained about new hires, promotions and salaries.

Commission Chairwoman Stephanie Singer tried to propose a series of staff moves for her office that she said would save the Commission $79,000 per year.  Singer was repeated interrupted by commissioners Al Schmidt and Anthony Clarke and staff counsel Fred Voigt as she tried to lay out moves to hire, promote and pay staffers.

They told her personnel matters had to be discussed in a private session while Singer said she had letters from all of the staffers, asking for the matters to be discussed at a public meeting.

Schmidt and Clarke, who have been at odds with Singer for months, quickly over-ruled her proposal, saying the matter would be postponed until after Nov. 6.  Schmidt said they should "focus on the election, which is imminent."

Dennis Lee, who Singer wants to promote from deputy to chief deputy, interrupted and said he needed "full clarity today" on his promotion, which would increase his salary from $72,000 to $84,000.  Clarke told Lee the vote to postpone the discussion was his answer.

Singer countered Schmidt's concern about the election, saying that leaving her staff changes in limbo would "leave us shorter staffed than we are" at a very busy time.

Greg Irving, the commission's voter registration administrator, questioned Lee's raise, noting that a previous chairwoman's chief deputy was paid $66,000 per year.

"We haven't had a raise going on four years," complained Irving, who like many commission employees is a member of a city union. "Why so much and we haven't gotten squat?"

Irving also took a shot at Mayor Nutter, who has angered city unions by not signing new contracts.  He said he understood union salaries are "up to the city and that guy they call a mayor."

The donnybrook drew a rebuke from Ellen Kaplan, the Committee of Seventy's policy director, who urged the commissioners to set aside their differences since they face an upcoming election complicated by a new Voter ID law that requires voters to show state-approved identification at polling places.

"I have very serious and genuine concerns about these elections based on the obvious hostility and rancor in this room between the commissioners, between the commissioners and some staff members," Kaplan said.

About this blog
William Bender, a Drexel graduate who landed at the Daily News in 2007, has covered everything from South Philly mobsters to doomsday hucksters. He occasionally writes about local food trucks and always eats everything on his plate, whether it be a bloody rib eye or a corrupt politician. E-mail tips to benderw@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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David Gambacorta, has been a reporter with the Daily News since 2005, covering crime, police corruption and all of the other bizarre things that happen in Philadelphia. Now he’s covering the 2015 mayor’s race, because he enjoys a good circus just as much as the next guy. He’s always looking to get a cup of coffee. Send news tips and other musings on life to gambacd@phillynews.com
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