Back on June 29, 2006, then City Solicitor Romulo Diaz offered a formal bit of advice that ended up having some fairly big political consequences. The city's controversial DROP program, he said, was indeed open to elected officials. Since then, seven council members have enrolled in the program, giving them the ability to retire for a day, secure a handsome lump sum retirement payout, and then head back to work. Mayor Nutter wants Council to exclude itself and all other elected officials from DROP, but that will likely be a tough sell politically. The Committee of Seventy is now suggesting an end-run way to exclude elected officials from DROP: revisit the old solitictor's opinon.
Read Committee of Seventy President Zack Stalberg's letter to City Solicitor Shelley Smith below:
March 26, 2009
The Honorable Shelley R. Smith, Esquire
Philadelphia City Solicitor
1515 Arch Street, 17th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107
I am writing to request that you review, and consider reversing, advice given by former City Solicitor Rumulo Diaz in a June 29, 2006 letter to City Council President Anna Verna that permits elected officials to run for reelection, retire for one day in order to receive a lump sum payment under the City’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan, and then return to office the following day.
The Committee of Seventy just received a copy of the letter from the Law Department after filing a request under the Commonwealth’s Right to Know Act.
Six members of City Council are currently enrolled in DROP and scheduled to retire before their next term would start in January 2012. However, none have committed to this and several have already held fundraisers, Seventy assumes that they intend to take advantage your predecessor’s advice by running for reelection in 2011 and retiring for one day in January 2012 to collect their DROP benefits.
Seventy’s lawyers are taking a deeper look at Solicitor Diaz’s letter as well, particularly his judgment that no legal principle prohibits a one day retirement.
As we understand it, the retirement of elected officials is usually decided by the voters. We also do not believe that a 24 hour retirement comports with a commonsense view what it means to genuinely retire. Finally, we are concerned that allowing elected officials to retire for one day discriminates against non-elected City employees who are prohibited by DROP rules from doing the same.
Your prompt attention is critical. At the Mayor’s request, legislation has been introduced in City Council that would eliminate elected officials from participating in DROP after January 1, 2010. The legislation does not touch elected officials already enrolled in the program or who decide to enroll during the remainder of 2009. Your decision to reverse Solicitor Diaz’s legal advice could impact that legislation.
We appreciate your consideration of this letter. Your views will be of great interest to City residents who, according to a report on the Mayor’s public forums on the budget, expressed “fierce public outrage” over the participation of elected officials in DROP.
President and CEO
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