Saturday, August 2, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Barbara Deeley, reformer?

We'll be honest. We didn't have high expectations for Barbara Deeley when she was appointed acting Sheriff in early January. After all, she'd been a top aide to Sheriff John Green, who ran the office so poorly that the agency's finances are in shambles. But we're starting to be impressed with Deeley's appetite for reform. The latest example can be found in today's Inquirer, which reports that Deeley is pushing to turn control of sheriff's sales over to the court system.

Barbara Deeley, reformer?

We'll be honest. We didn't have high expectations for Barbara Deeley when she was appointed acting Sheriff in early January. After all, she'd been a top aide to Sheriff John Green, who ran the office so poorly that the agency's finances are in shambles. But we're starting to be impressed with Deeley's appetite for reform. The latest example can be found in today's Inquirer, which reports that Deeley is pushing to turn control of sheriff's sales over to the court system.

That's a big deal, because it might be a step towards dismantling the office entirely. The Sheriff is currently an independently elected official. Reformers argue that the functions of the Sheriff's Office -- in addition to overseeing Sheriff's sales, it transports prisoners and serves court orders -- should be taken over by other parts of government. Taking one of those responsibilities off its plate would only strengthen that argument.

This isn't the first time Deeley has shaken things up since taking over on January 1. She almost immediately removed four top aides to former Sheriff John Green, who were responsible for the agency's finances. Deeley also halted foreclosure sales for 50 days and fired Reach Communications, a private company that had gotten millions to essentially run major portions of the sheriff sale process. Deeley wins points for acting quickly and decisively on these moves.

Of course, it could be argued that Deeley had no choice. The City Controller is conducting a forensic audit of the Sheriff's office, after finding major irregularities during a routine look at its books. One way or another, there will be a public accounting of what happened during John Green's tenure. Deeley could just be doing damage control.

We imagine that will be the argument of people who don't want to see Deeley confirmed by the State Senate -- there will be a push for completely new blood to run the office. And that might be for the best. Still, we're happy that someone associated with the Sheriff's Office appears to be cleaning house and considering big changes.

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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