For Nutter's staff, a day at the ball park

Still a popular guy, it seemed unlikely that Mayor Nutter would be booed by baseball fans Monday when he tossed out the first pitch at the Phillies opening game. And he wasn’t.

In case he had been, though, the mayor had his own cheering section on hand.

Fifteen members of Nutter’s staff received tickets to watch the game from the free box that Nutter now controls as Philadelphia’s CEO. They were raffled off as part of an intra-office lottery.

Some of the winners included Nutter spokesman Doug Oliver; chief integrity officer Joan Markman; senior economic development adviser Terry Gillen; research, policy and planning director Wendell Pritchett; city solicitor Shelley Smith; and deputy chief of staff Patricia Enright.

How that box – and other ones like it at Lincoln Financial Field, the Wachovia Center, and the Spectrum – were used grew controversial under former Mayor John F. Street. During the 2003 federal investigation of City Hall, the FBI secretly recorded Street talking with his chief fund-raiser, lawyer Ronald White, about “selling" seats at the Eagles stadium for as much as $20,000 apiece. 

Street, who denied raising campaign cash from the box, went on to ban political fund-raising from any of the mayor's boxes after the taped conversation was released in 2005.

During last year’s mayoral primary, the good-government group Committee of Seventy came up with its own reform proposals for the boxes. It supported a continuation of the ban on political fund-raising, and also proposed that the new mayor “regularly make public a list of all persons using the mayor’s box or receiving complimentary city tickets from any member” of the administration.”

No word yet on whether Nutter is prepared to do that.

He is in the process of drafting a policy to guide use of the box, Oliver said. But it is not yet completed.

“In the meanwhile,” he said, with the Phillies season already here, “we did not want it to be empty for the opening game.”