Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Nepotism and the Sheriff's Office

Philadelphia doesn't have a law banning nepotism in city government. Mayor Nutter has an executive order prohibiting city employees from hiring or participating in professional decisions about immediate family members -- but that only covers workers under the administration, not other branches of government like Council. Or the row offices.

Nepotism and the Sheriff's Office

Former Sheriff John Green is accused of giving friends lucrative property-sales contracts. (Juliette Lynch / Staff Photographer)
Former Sheriff John Green is accused of giving friends lucrative property-sales contracts. (Juliette Lynch / Staff Photographer)

Philadelphia doesn't have a law banning nepotism in city government. Mayor Nutter has an executive order prohibiting city employees from hiring or participating in professional decisions about immediate family members -- but that only covers workers under the administration, not other branches of government like Council. Or the row offices.

That's why Marge Tartaglione, the long-time, and now outgoing, head of the City Commissioners, was able to have her daughter, Renee, as her chief of staff until last year, when Renee was forced to resign after violating a ban on city employees being involved in electoral politics.

It's also why former Clerk of Quarter Sessions Vivian Miller could have her daughter, Robin T. Jones, as a first deputy, until Miller stepped down amid criticism that her office was managed poorly.

This week, the Controller released an audit of yet another row office, the Sheriff, that reported all kinds of questionable financial arrangements. At the center of the storm is the Sheriff's Real Estate Division, which was run, under former Sheriff John Green, by Director Crystal Stewart and Supervisor Darrell Stewart. The Stewarts are married. Crystal Stewart's brother is James Davis, Jr., who owns two companies that made a lot of money off the Sheriff's office over the years, including millions it kept improperly, according to the Controller.

Do we think a nepotism law would have prevented all of this? No. In fact, if Nutter's nepotism policy had been extended to the Sheriff's Office, it wouldn't have impacted the contracts with Davis' companies at all. (We're not sure what it would have meant for the director and supervisor of the Real Estate division; does one of those positions supervise or direct the other?) But we do now have a good deal of anecdotal evidence that nepotism in the row offices invites problems. Why not ban it?

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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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