PICA paralyzed by board vacancies

The state agency empowered to oversee Philadelphia's budget can't even pass its own.

Named the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, the agency is supposed to function as a watchdog to keep the city from inching toward bankruptcy, principally by reviewing and approving Philadelphia's annual budget and five-year spending plan.

But at the moment, it is paralyzed from doing anything - including acting on PICA's own budget, which must be passed by March 1.

The reason? To take any official action, the five-member board needs four voting members. Right now, though, it has just three.

All five appointments actually expired at the end of January, but to date just three of the appointees have been renamed to the board. They are James Eisenhower, PICA's chairman and an appointee of Gov. Rendell; Michael Karp, an appointee of House Republican Leader Sam Smith; and Bill Leonard, named to the board by House Speaker Keith McCall.

Two other former PICA board members - Varsovia Fernandez and Robert Archie - have not been reappointed, nor has anyone been named in their place. Varsovia's appointing authority is Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati; Archie's is Senate Democratic Leader Bob Mellow.

"We don't know what's going on," said Eisenhower, who earlier this week presided over an official PICA meeting in which no official action could occur.

"We have draft reports we want to issue. We have hiring decisions we want to make," he said.

He also expressed a certain degree of exasperation about the situation given the city's precarious financial state. "We've had this before where we've had delays in appointments, but not this long," Eisenhower said. "Of all years... Of all years."

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