Did Election Official Overstep Political Activity Rules?

Has a future City Council candidate already run afoul of city ethics rules?

In City Hall today, Joe Grace – who is trying to unseat Councilman Frank DiCicco in the 1st Councilmanic district -- held a press conference to attack DiCicco’s recent proposal to change the controversial DROP program.

Grace delayed the talking to reporters until he was joined by Bill Rubin, an elections supervisor who is publicly considering a run for the 10th Councilmanic district. When he arrived, Rubin -- a former vice-chairman of the Board of Pensions -- also criticized the DiCicco proposal.

PhillyClout wondered if this partnership was appropriate under the city’s political activity rules, which clearly state that city employees can’t “take any part in the management or affairs of any political party or in any political campaign.”

Asked whether he was there in a political role, Rubin said he wasn’t “here in any way shape or form on behalf of Joe Grace.” Grace said he had invited Rubin to the event to serve as a pension expert, given his experience on the Board of Pensions.

Shane Creamer, executive director of the Ethics Board, declined comment on the specifics of the situation, but did say that the political activity rules apply to staffers at the City Commissioners office, where Rubin works. In December, Renee Tartaglione, formerly the city’s top election official under the elected commissioners, resigned after admitting to blatant violations of city ethics rules.

We followed up again with Rubin, who insisted he was simply there to answer questions about DROP and not on behalf of Grace. So we asked him if he thought it was appropriate to appear at a scheduled campaign event for a candidate.

"Now that I think about it looking back, I guess it was [a campaign event]," he said. "I didn’t see it that way. It was not my intention. I was strictly there to answer those questions."

Rubin, who has set up an exploratory committee to raise money for a possible run, is expected to quit his job with the Commissioners in a few weeks to run for Council anyway. But until then, he should probably proceed with caution around political events.