Saturday, August 1, 2015

Two more need to DROP

City Councilman Frank DiCicco says a political cartoon showing pigs eating at the DROP trough pushed him to end his reelection bid.

Two more need to DROP

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Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter walks to the podium of city council chambers to the applause of (from left) Councilmen Jack Kelly, Darrell Clarke, Frank Rizzo Jr., and Council President Anna C. Verna is at top. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter walks to the podium of city council chambers to the applause of (from left) Councilmen Jack Kelly, Darrell Clarke, Frank Rizzo Jr., and Council President Anna C. Verna is at top. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)

City Councilman Frank DiCicco says a political cartoon showing pigs eating at the DROP trough pushed him to end his reelection bid.

DiCicco also happened to be facing a hotly contested primary battle and voters who are angry not only about DROP but also two years of tax hikes.

While DiCicco may be upset about leaving his six-figure job, he will manage to survive. Upon retirement, the councilman will receive a nearly $425,000 lump-sum pension payment on top of a generous monthly pension check.

More importantly, DiCicco will walk away from his Council post, having done the right thing: He retired as he promised to do four years ago when he signed up for the lucrative pension perk known as DROP, short for Deferred Retirement Option Plan.

Three other Council members have also rightly decided to honor their promise to retire, rather than abuse a legal loophole that allows them to quit for one day at the end of their term and come back for a new four-year term.

Too bad the same can’t be said about Council members Frank Rizzo and Marian Tasco. Both are running for reelection despite signing up for DROP four years ago. If reelected, Rizzo and Tasco plan to resign for one day, collect their six-figure pension checks, and come back to work for another four-year term.

It is a shameless ploy that at the very least violates the public spirit of DROP. Both Rizzo and Tasco may face some stiff opposition for a change, in large measure because of the voter outrage surrounding DROP. But that apparently doesn’t bother either longtime Council member.

Rizzo told local Fox News reporters that he never intended to retire when he signed up for DROP four years ago. That is very disturbing, given that the legal language in the DROP ordinance is crystal clear:

“Employees who elect to participate in the DROP make an irrevocable commitment to separate from city service and retire upon ceasing participation in the DROP, which they must do no later than four years after entering the DROP,” the ordinance says.

Rizzo argues that a legal opinion from the city solicitor’s office allows him to take the DROP money and return to work. That may be true technically, but it doesn’t make it right. In fact, that legal opinion may soon face a challenge in court.

Regardless of the legal outcome, it is clear to everyone else that elected officials who take the DROP money and still run are in the wrong. The rules allow elected officials to enter DROP, but they should retire as promised.

Four Council members who are in DROP have come to their senses. Rizzo and Tasco should follow their lead and drop out, too. The Inquirer Editorial Board has said it won’t support any candidate who takes DROP money and runs for reelection. Voters should treat them that way, too.

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The Inquirer Editorial Board's Say What? opinion blog showcases the work of the editors and writers who produce the newspaper's daily and Sunday opinion pages.

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