Committee of Seventy Files Legal Support for DROP Suits

Here's their release:

SEVENTY COMBATS DROP IN COMMONWEALTH COURT

PHILADELPHIA – March 31, 2011 – The Committee of Seventy today filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of lawsuits aimed at removing from the May 17 ballot candidates for City Council and city commissioner who are enrolled in the controversial Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP).

Lawsuits to remove the candidates were rejected at the Common Pleas Court level by Judge James Lynn on March 23. The case involving City Councilman Frank Rizzo, Jr. is now before the Commonwealth Court. An appeal is expected to be filed tomorrow in the cases involving City Council Majority Leader Marian B. Tasco and City Commissioner Chair Margaret M. Tartaglione.

Since early 2008, the non-partisan Committee of Seventy has opposed the practice of elected officials enrolling in DROP, running for reelection, resigning for 24 hours in order to receive a large, lump-sum payment and then serving another term in office. Seventy has consistently contended that DROP was not designed for elected officials. Because of action by the General Assembly in 2009, new office-holders across Pennsylvania have been excluded from participating in DROP programs. Rizzo, Tasco and Tartaglione are not affected by this action.

Seventy’s brief – formally known as an “amicus” brief – argues that a continued use of the 24-hour resignation to satisfy a retirement requirement in the pension code leads “the public to believe that….officials put their personal interests ahead of the public interests they were elected to serve.”

Zachary Stalberg, President and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, added, “Our brief seeks to have the Court declare a clear moral wrong to be a legal wrong. No commonsense understanding of DROP would permit any other city employee to stage a theatrical retirement in order to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars, go back to work and not miss a beat.”

The Committee of Seventy’s brief is based on the principles in the cases – not the candidates themselves. The non-partisan organization takes no position on individual candidacies.

The Committee of Seventy also has opposed the entire DROP program, which has cost the city’s seriously troubled pension program somewhere between $100 million and $250 million. The pending cases would have no effect on DROP itself.

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