Thursday, July 30, 2015

Why exactly was a judge overseeing a development deal in the first place?

That's the question at the heart of today's Daily News editorial:

Why exactly was a judge overseeing a development deal in the first place?

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Chief Justice Ronald Castille
Chief Justice Ronald Castille

That's the question at the heart of today's Daily News editorial:

We don't know what [state Chief Justice Ronald] Castille was thinking when he decided to undertake a major development project with no public process, no bids, no effort to make sure the spoils didn't go to the same small group of political insiders who so often get this work. Projects of this size are typically handled by the state's division of general services, which subjects projects of this size to bids. Did no one think to point this out to Castille earlier?

The project has now been taken over by the state, and Castille is asking for invoices for $12 million in taxpayer money. Hey, that's great .... and it would have been greater if it had happened before the money got paid. Now, the paper says, we need a bit more -- perhaps an independent investigation.

The state's auditor general and/or the attorney general should launch an independent and thorough investigation to uncover where this public money went, and whether it was responsibly spent.

[snip]

And we'd like to also get a ruling from the state's Judicial Conduct board, not because we're accusing Castille of criminal wrongdoing - by most accounts, his work as a jurist is unimpeachable - but because the ethics of the kind of involvement he had in this project need to be clarified. After all, what's a Supreme Court justice doing as a point person on such a large and expensive project?

From a very fundamental standpoint, it is hard for us to fathom why a judge's skill set would be deemed appropriate for oversight of a huge public works project.

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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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