Seventy says 'no' to Rendell's sheriff pick

In an unusual request, the Committee of Seventy is urging Republican Senate leaders to reject Democratic Gov. Rendell’s nomination of a longtime sheriff’s employee, Barbara Deeley, as Philadelphia’s next sheriff.

The governor nominated Deeley Monday, three days after six-term Sheriff John D. Green retired and two weeks before the swearing-in of Rendell’s Republican successor, Tom Corbett.

Barbara Deeley will be acting sheriff.

“With all due respect to Barbara Deeley, her confirmation at this particular time would send the wrong signal to the public, whose trust in the Sheriff’s office has been severely compromised,” wrote the committee’s president, Zachary Stalberg, in a letter Tuesday to Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi.

It is uncertain when the Senate, which reconvenes Jan. 18, will or would vote on her nomination.

For years, Philadelphia’s sheriff’s office has been under fire by city and state auditors for questionable record-keeping practices that made it unclear what happened to millions in taxpayer dollars.

The latest scrutiny comes from City Controller Alan Butkovitz, who is hiring professional fraud investigators to delve into the sheriff’s financial books after Green’s staff in the fall was unable to provide documentation for bank accounts holding a total of $53 million.

Deeley was Green’s chief deputy and is now acting sheriff. She has previously said she does not intend to run for the job, which currently pays $117,991, in what is shaping up as a crowded field in the May primary election.

“An appointment of an individual with no ties to Sheriff Green or his administration would provide greater confidence that the issues raised by the Controller’s audit can be resolved before the next Sheriff takes office in January 2012,” Stalberg wrote in his letter.

Deeley, in response, took issue with Stalberg and his organization for wading into matters beyond the Committee of Seventy’s historic purview, which has been to serve as Philadelphia’s chief election watchdog. Under Stalberg, though, the committee has expanded its orbit to monitor City Hall and its related government agencies, of which the sheriff’s office is one.

“First he goes after Vivian Miller, then Marge Tartaglione. Now he wants to go after me?” said an infuriated Deeley.

She referred to Stalberg’s past public statements regarding the very need for Philadelphia’s row offices and the elected officials who hold them. Miller was the longtime head of the Clerk of Quarter Sessions Office, an agency that Mayor Nutter officially abolished in the fall after auditors faulted its handling of millions of dollars in bail, fines and court fees. Tartaglione is the chairwoman of the City Commissioners Office, which Stalberg believes should likewise be eliminated as an independent government agency.

“(Stalberg) hasn’t even met me, hasn’t even given me a chance,” Deeley said, adding that his request was “petty and unprofessional.”

If approved by the Senate, she noted she would be Philadelphia’s first female sheriff and just the second in Pennsylvania.

“I would hope they would honor the nomination,” she said, “If not, I think that would be a setback for all women.”

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