Ethics Commission clears former Mayor John Street, does not 'condone' his conduct

Former Mayor John Street was cleared by the State Ethics Commission for awarding PHA contracts to a law firm that employed his son. (Staff Photo)

The State Ethics Commission says former Mayor John Street did not violate the Ethics Act when he voted as chairman of the Philadelphia Housing Authority to approve a contract of up to $7.5 million for a law firm that employed his son.

Four of the seven commission members, in a ruling released today, said they do “not condone the conduct at issue in this case” but had to decide in Street’s favor because the contract was part of a package that included contracts for other law firms.

Two members, including Commission Chairman, John Bolger, dissented in the ruling, writing that “the ban on use of public office for a private pecuniary gain for the public official himself or immediate family is at the heart of the Ethics Act.”

Street's attorney, Charles Gibbs, took note of the Commission's statement that they did not condone the conduct but followed legal precedent in the ruling.

“Despite their hesitation, the fact is the Ethics Commission did exactly what they were supposed to do," Gibbs said. "That is: Look at the law and determine the facts.”

The Commission ruled Street did violate part of the ethics act that required him to file a statement of financial interest every year while holding public office. Street did not file that statement in 2006 and 2010.

Street’s son, Sharif Street, was a real estate lawyer at the now defunct firm of Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen . Street served on the PHA board from 2004 until 2011, more than three years after his second term as mayor ended.

The commission, it the ruling, noted that PHA’s own code of conduct says it is a conflict of interest to award a contract to an immediate family member. It also noted that PHA’s then-general counsel pointed out in a meeting that Street should not on a matter involving Wolf Block. Street voted anyway.