Seventy: Don't release Family Court money

Mayor Nutter, right, Gov. Rendell, left, and state Chief Justice Ron Castille were all on hand for the May 21, 2010 announcement about a new family court building for 15th and Arch streets. (April Saul / Staff Photographer)

The Committee of Seventy today urged Gov. Rendell not to release the $200 million in state funds set to be used for the new Family Court building in Philadelphia. CEO Zachary Stalberg said:

it would now be irresponsible to release $200 million for a project that has become so polluted. It’s unfortunate because the city desperately needs a new Family Court and construction would have brought jobs and other economic opportunities. The timing couldn’t be worse.

Seventy stopped short of calling for Chief Justice Ron Castille to resign, which both the Daily News and the Inquirer have done, instead urging "Castille to recuse himself from any future participation in the construction of, or litigation involving, the Family Court building."

The watchdog group also joined many others in calling for an independent investigation of the development debacle, though instead of an investigation by the state's Attorney General or Auditor General the group asked Rendell to appoint an "individual of impeccable integrity – without a political agenda and without ties to the Family Court building or any of the individuals involved – to take a top‐to‐bottom review of how the project went wrong":

According to Stalberg, a federal investigation of possible illegalities is important, but can’t take the place of an independent review authorized by Governor Rendell. “The federal investigation is a separate probe that could take years,” he said. “And it would not necessarily get to the bottom of how millions of taxpayer dollars were spent without clear written contracts or a competitive bidding process. These are structural issues that the Commonwealth and the judicial system must resolve.”

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