DROP Legal Fight Not Over Yet

Though a Common Pleas judge this week rejected an effort to get elected officials enrolled in the DROP program kicked off the primary ballot, the legal fight seems far from over.

As expected, attorney Matthew Wolfe, who filed the challenge against Councilman Frank Rizzo, yesterday filed an appeal in Commonwealth Court. Wolfe had argued that the elected officials made an "irrevocable commitment" to retire when they entered DROP, so they are now ineligible to run for re-election.

This week Common Pleas Judge Jimmy Lynn rejected the argument. Lynn's order said that the voters who filed the challenges in the last two weeks were asking him to rewrite city law. He added that their argument could prevent a Council member from retiring in the retirement program and then running for mayor.

Rizzo's attorney Christopher Warren said he was confident that the appeal would not go anywhere.

“An appeal doesn’t transform a baseless claim into one with merit. It’s absolutely frivolous it really is,” Warren said.

Attorney Joseph Doherty, who filed challenges to Councilwoman Marian Tasco and City Commissioner Marge Tartaglione, said he expected to also file an appeal in the Tasco case. He said he has until April 4 to do so.

Tasco and Rizzo have DROP retirement dates set for Dec. 30 and if they win re-election this year, they could "retire" for a day to collect their payments and then get re-hired in time to be sworn in for another term. Two city solicitors - one for former Mayor Street and the other for Mayor Nutter - have issued opinions saying that that practice is legal.

Tasco will collect $478,057 from DROP; Rizzo is due to receive $194,517.