Brown's Council leadership position in jeopardy

Blondell Reynolds Brown

Some of City Council’s Democratic members are maneuvering to strip City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown of her leadership position as Council’s majority whip, in reaction to a Board of Ethics investigation that found she had used $4,700 in campaign contributions for personal expenses, among scores of other offenses.

Sources said Brown had warned her colleagues in advance that the Ethics Board was investigating the financing of her 2011 campaign, but she had suggested the probe focused on bookkeeping problems.  Some Council members privately expressed amazement at the conduct detailed in the actual report, released Monday.

 It revealed dozens of previous-unreported donations, running into tens of thousands of dollars, and her use of a fictitious expenditure to cover up the repayment of a personal $3,300 loan from Chaka Fattah Jr., the son of the West Philadelphia congressman.  The campaign listed the $3,300 as a payment to a printing firm.

The Ethics Board levied a record penalty, $48,834 in fines and restitution, against Brown and her campaign committee, and set up detailed disclosure requirements to check on how Brown would come up with the money to pay off the fines.

So far, Brown herself has publicly dismissed her personal use of campaign dollars as “an error in judgment” and refused to answer any detailed questions from reporters.

Majority whip is the third-highest position in the Council hierarchy, behind Council President Darrell Clarke and Majority Leader Curtis Jones.

Theoretically, the whip’s job is to count noses on significant legislation in advance in advance of actual votes, and when necessary, to “whip” recalcitrant members into the positions favored by Council leadership.  In practice, it rarely works that way. The only real significance to the position is, the whip gets a bump in her salary, now $129,904 a year.

Sources said nobody had figured out the procedures for taking the position away from Brown. But they speculated that she would resign the post on her own if she sees her Democratic colleagues lining up in sufficient numbers to remove her.