Clout: About those tax liens, potential DA candidate has just one answer

Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams, left, named Tariq El-Shabazz, right, to be the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office’s Deputy for Investigations and First Assistant District Attorney last year.

Tariq El-Shabazz, who until this week was the top deputy to District Attorney Seth Williams, told WURD-AM Thursday morning he is “approximately 99.9 percent sure” he will run for district attorney.

El-Shabazz was loquacious in the 15-minute radio interview, which barely touched on his former boss, who on Friday announced he was dropping his bid for a third term.

He had far fewer answers for Clout a few hours later when asked about his finances.

In fact, he had just one answer when we pressed for details about $190,712 in tax lien judgments on file against him in Common Pleas Court.

“I have a settlement agreement regarding my tax liens,” El-Shabazz said. “I am up to date.”

Who is that agreement with, since the IRS, state, and city each have filed liens against El-Shabazz?

“I have a settlement agreement regarding my tax liens,” he said. “I am up to date.”

 

Can we see a copy of the agreement?

“I have a settlement agreement regarding my tax liens,” he said. “I am up to date.”

It went on like that until we suggested that he would answer a question about the weather with, “I have a settlement agreement ...”

El-Shabazz insisted that he had answered all our questions. We’ll leave it up to you to decide.

Williams, it is worth noting, is ending his political career because of a series of self-inflicted wounds that centered almost entirely on his finances.

The El-Shabazz tax bills include:

* Six IRS liens from 2013 to 2016 for a combined $137,187, the last coming 3½ months after he took the job as first deputy district attorney, with a $167,576 salary.

* A combined city lien of $50,947 that started growing in 2001 and is listed as unpaid as of Sept. 30.

* A state personal income tax lien of $2,577 filed last June.

In August, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office said El-Shabazz had disclosed the liens before taking the job and that Williams was “confident” they would not impact El-Shabazz's performance.

We’ll see if they'll impact his political aspirations.

 The (not-so-)MIA DA

It’s been a long, long time since this town has dissolved into unbridled hysteria over a rumored federal indictment of major political figure.

Why, you’d have to go all the way back to, er, Aug. 5 — the day FBI agents searched City Councilman Bobby Henon’s City Hall office, and a number of properties connected to IBEW Local 98 leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty — to find another example of the manic energy that permeated the city’s political and law enforcement circles this week when scores of tipsters assured local journalists that the Williams saga had taken a more serious turn.

By now, you’ve probably heard the main rumor – that Williams was allegedly going to be indicted for unspecified offenses. (Didn’t happen.) But you probably don’t know just how insane things got for your friends here at Clout, as we sift through every rumor that comes our way, be it through text message, email, or handwritten note tied to a brick.

Tips started rolling in Monday afternoon that Williams, whose problems include federal subpoenas for his finances, a $62,000 ethics fine for $175,000 in previously unreported gifts, would surrender to federal authorities the following day. When the sun peeked over the skyline on Tuesday morning, cops, city politicos, former prosecutors, reporters, and the defense bar had worked themselves into a full-blown lather.

Williams was in custody, some said with confidence. Others heard that U.S. marshals hauled him from his home that morning.

One tipster breathlessly reported Williams had slipped his security detail – and could be anywhere.

Then he was spotted at the federal courthouse on Market Street, some sources said. No, others argued, he was really at a federal office in Trenton, or Camden, or Newark.

Williams was everywhere. He was nowhere.

His attorney, John Pease, wrote in an email that the rumors were flat-out “not correct.”

The madness finally ended when one of Clout’s own tracked down Williams. He was having lunch at a cozy little spot on Sansom Street. We suggested a tweeted photo to calm the masses.

How about a selfie? the district attorney offered.

And yes, he, too, thought all this was crazy.

 And the bill so far…

The city Law Department reports that as of Wednesday, Philadelphia’s taxpayers have shelled out $61,407.37 to the law firm Pepper Hamilton “to advise certain attorneys and staff at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office who are potential witnesses, not targets in a government investigation.”

Another firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, has been paid $24,480.63 to advise Williams “in a government investigation.”

That comes to a combined $85,888 so far.

Staff writers Chris Brennan, David Gambacorta and Jeremy Roebuck contributed to this column.