Watchdog Group Wants the Clerk of Quarter Sessions Abolished

Here's the release from the Committee of Seventy:

Says Stripping Functions of the Office Isn’t Enough

PHILADELPHIA – January 7, 2010 – The Committee of Seventy today urged Philadelphia City Council to immediately pass legislation to abolish the independently elected office of the Clerk of Quarter Sessions.

Seventy’s President and CEO Zachary Stalberg called Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille’s order stripping the office of many of its functions “the final straw in proving that this obscure and mismanaged operation has outlived its usefulness.” Stalberg commended Chief Justice Castille for acting forcefully in response to a Philadelphia Inquirer report of $1 billion in bail owed by fugitives and the absence of computerized debt records in the Clerk of Quarter Sessions’ office.

“There is little left to salvage in the Clerk of Quarter Sessions’ office,” Stalberg observed. “Allowing this operation to continue to exist is a waste of the taxpayers’ money.”

Stalberg noted that Seventy urged the elimination of the Clerk of Quarter Sessions’ office in a March 2009 report, “NEEDLESS JOBS: Why Six Elected City Positions Should Die.” The same conclusion was reached by the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority in its November 2009 report, “A History We Can No Longer Afford: Consolidating Philadelphia’s Row Offices.” Both reports called for transferring the functions of the office of the Clerk of Quarter Sessions, as well as the duties of three other independently elected row offices, to other city departments or to the courts.

“We are disappointed that these two reports – which outlined the cost-savings and efficiencies to be realized in eliminating four row offices – have been ignored by the Nutter administration and City Council,” Stalberg said, noting that the mayor first raised the possibility of abolishing certain elected row offices in December 2008. “City officials demonstrated the ability to move swiftly to do away with the embattled Board of Revision of Taxes. They should now show the same urgency with the Clerk of Quarter Sessions.”

Eliminating the Clerk of Quarter Sessions’ office only requires Council legislation. Stalberg said the timing was right because the Clerk of Quarter Sessions, Vivian T. Miller, is enrolled in the city’s DROP program and is scheduled to retire before her next term would start in January 2012. “Given the Chief Justice’s order, electing a new Clerk of Quarter Sessions in November 2011 would be absurd,” he concluded.

The Committee of Seventy is a non-partisan organization fighting for clean and effective government, fair elections and informed citizens. The copy of Seventy’s report, “NEEDLESS JOBS: Why Six Elected City Positions Should Die,” can be downloaded from

# # #