We just got back from a jaw-dropping press conference with Philly Sheriff John Green. Green announced that he'll be delaying his retirement (scheduled for Sunday) to coordinate a forensic audit of the agency that he's overseen since 1986. The move is a response to a critical report released yesterday by City Controller Alan Butkovitz.
The big headline of Butkovitz's audit was that the Sheriff's Office failed to provide basic financial records, including clear documentation of custodial bank accounts that contain more than $52 million in public funds. But the most striking thing from the press conference was Green's discussion of how his office tracks vacation and sick days for appointed (non-civil service) employees.
The Sheriff apparently keeps no records of either vacation or sick days for its 17 non-union workers. Green said that his top aides work 24/7 and never take a day off. They're considered to be on call even if they aren't in the office.
“We do not have records of days when people were on call. We do not have records of that,” said Green. “An accurate description of what these people were doing is that they were on call. You may call it vacation, but they were on call.”
This is completely indefensible, especially since Green conceded that some exempt employees have cashed out their unused vacation days upon retirement. How can Green justify paying employees for unused days if no records are kept?
We suppose that Green deserves some credit for delaying his retirement to help clean up this mess. But that's the smaller picture. Such a clean-up wouldn't be necessary if the Sheriff's office had been run professionally -- and that would be much more likely if it weren't an independently elected office. As things stand now, no one oversees the operation, and most voters don't pay attention to it.
Councilmen Green and DiCicco have proposed a voter referendum to eliminate the office.