Philadelphia corruption?

An often-repeated joke in Philadelphia political circles goes something like this:

“You know what they call federal prison?”

Answer: “The 67th ward.”

Philadelphia has 66 wards, and the punchline refers to the many local officials convicted of crimes over the years. This is, after all, the city that saw three Council members go to jail in the 1980s Abscam scandal.

In 1987, the tradition continued when Leland M. Beloff, was convicted of conspiring to shake down a developer, and served five years in jail.

In 1991, James J. Tayoun picked up the baton, pleading guilty to taking money in exchange for political favor and serving 31/3 years.

So it was perhaps a surprise to read, in a Pew Charitable Trusts report comparing Philadelphia’s City Councils to those in 14 other cities nationally, that the City of Brotherly Love may actually be less crooked than its counterparts.

Since 1999, Philadelphia has had one council member forced out due to corruption: Rick Mariano in 2006 on a bribery conviction. New York had four, Detroit three, and Dallas, Chicago, Baltimore, Los Angeles and San Antonio two each.

In 13 of the 15 cities, all but Phoenix and San Diego, at least one member has faced an indictment or investigation for a serious offense in the past decade while in office or soon after leaving office, the Pew study said.


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