City Commission employee in trouble again for political activity

Tracey Gordon on the banks of Cobbs Creek in 2011. (Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)

Tracey Gordon, a deputy city commissioner, is apparently in trouble once again for engaging in prohibited political activity. 

We hear the City Commission, which runs elections in Philadelphia, seized Gordon's computer yesterday afternoon at the request of the Philadelphia Board of Ethics. We also hear the City Commission placed Gordon on a 90-day unpaid leave of absence today.

Michael Cooke, director of enforcement for the Board of Ethics, today said he could not confirm or deny if Gordon's computer was seized.

City Commission Vice Chairman Al Schmidt also said he could not confirm if an investigation is under way. But he made clear Gordon's boss, City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, had been alerted to concerns.

"What I can say is that we have told Commissioner Singer on at least a dozen occasions that we have concerns about her office engaging in prohibited activity," said Schmidt, adding that the commission rejected a request last month from Singer to increase Gordon's $51,250 annual salary by $10,000 because of the political activity.

Gordon's latest brush with the Board of Ethics may also have some roots in a complaint state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams made to Singer a few weeks ago.

Williams today said Gordon "clearly seems to be politically active" and had been advocating for candidates.

The City Charter prohibits city employees like Gordon engaging in certain types of political activity.

Gordon must know that because the Board of Ethics fined her $675 in November 2012 after she admitted using the computer in her City Hall office to post political messages on her Facebook page nine times.  As part of a settlement with the board, Gordon had to attend ethics training.

"It was disappointing that it would occur, given the fact that she was given another chance," Williams said. "In those offices, people trust that elections will be run in a non-biased way."

Gordon said Singer's chief deputy, Dennis Lee, called her yesterday and told her not to come to work.  Gordon said she has been suspended from her job, though she was fuzzy on the details of that today.

So was her boss.  Singer said the only information she had about the computer seizure and Gordon's suspension came from the media.  Asked why she hadn't looked into the matter, Singer said she has been busy.

"I trust the Board of Ethics," Singer said. "If the Board of Ethics seized the computer, they probably have a reason to seize the computer."

Gordon said she was "very upset" and looking to hire an attorney.  She said her office has "been a very hostile environment" since Williams complained to Singer.

Gordon has clashed in the past with the Democratic leadership of Southwest Philly's 40-B Ward, where she lives. She also ran unsuccessfully in the 2011 Democratic primary election for the 2nd Council District seat.