As Philadelphia’s sheriff, Jewell Williams is one of the highest law enforcement officials in the city. So imagine Clout’s surprise when we discovered that he’s also a landlord on the side and — it gets better — that he’s allegedly broken multiple city rules.
According to the Licenses and Inspections Department, Williams was slapped with citations in January for operating a North Philadelphia triplex without the proper zoning. L&I also issued violations to Williams for reportedly failing to provide a working stove and operable carbon monoxide detector in the property’s second-floor apartment.
He received a total of seven citations, all deemed “non-hazardous.”
Clout wouldn’t have known any of this had a member of the reporting team not wandered with her husband into a real estate showing at the house one night last week. Williams was there in a Sheriff’s Department shirt and ball cap, standing at the front door. (For the record, we’re not planning a bid on the place.)
Asked about it later, Williams disputed L&I’s claim that he utilized his property as a triplex. He said only one tenant has lived there at a time, and that any others in the property were squatters who have since left.
“You don’t have good information,” he said, adding, “As soon as I became aware of violations in the house, I corrected them.”
An L&I inspector first visited Williams’ building after someone who identified themselves as his tenant called 311, the city’s non-emergency hotline, to complain. Karen Guss, a spokeswoman for L&I, said the inspector noticed there were tenants in three apartments at the property — one on the first floor, another on the second floor, and a third in the basement.
Williams, who never appealed the violations, did not deny the building is subdivided. But he said he bought it that way.
“I purchased the property from an older lady whose niece was taking care of her,” he said. “The lady must have separated the house herself. She probably wanted privacy.”
Clout has uncovered a few things that left us with questions about that. Dominic Diodata III, a friend of the former owner who was charged with selling her house, said she lived with her husband for many years in what he presumed was a single-family home. He did not recall a niece living with the woman, even after her husband died.
Also, a spokeswoman for Williams said the squatters were there “in or around January” of this year. But Williams’ property has been billed for water usage that is seemingly much more than one tenant would ever need. On at least three monthly bills in 2016 and 2017, the price tag for water was about $190.
Williams’ spokeswoman, Barbara Grant, said people living there in the past may have invited others to stay without authorization.
As for the case against Williams, L&I closed it in April after an inspector “looked through a window” of Williams’ property and it “appeared to be unoccupied,” Guss said.
But that might not be the end of Williams’ L&I woes. As of last week, one tenant was living in the first-floor apartment.
Since Williams is renting out the property, Guss said, he needs to have a valid rental license. But Williams’ rental license expired in 2012.
“That’s a violation,” Guss said.
On that point, at least, Williams agrees. “We are working to get it renewed and pay whatever fines and penalties are due,” he said.
State rep. candidate’s ads slammed as ‘racially charged,’ intimidating
Democrat Sean Kilkenny, a union construction worker running for the state House in Northeast Philly’s 177th District, recently mailed out a pair of campaign ads.
They claimed one of his primary opponents, law student Maggie Borski, is an employee of a “lobbying firm that operates right out of her home.” They said another foe, lawyer Joseph Hohenstein, had defended “sex offenders, bank robbers and other felons to avoid deportation,” as well as a client with ties to “the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
It’s not every day that you see the word jihad in a Democratic ad!
That wasn’t the only reason it raised eyebrows among his rivals: The mailing listed Borski’s address — as in, the place where she sleeps at night.
“I am disgusted that Sean Kilkenny would do something so reckless and irresponsible — mailing a woman’s home address out to thousands of people,” said Democratic committee person Pam Ewing, who is Borski’s aunt.
“This was a clear attempt to intimidate me,” said Borski.
Hohenstein called the flyers “racially charged” and “Trump-style attack ads” that divide the city.
Kilkenny’s campaign manager, Gary Masino, stood by the ads on Thursday. He said Hohenstein’s clients “make our community unsafe, and Sean Kilkenny was endorsed by the Philadelphia police officers, and is all for making our streets safer.” As for why they made Borski’s address public, Masino said the campaign wanted to prove that she was a lobbyist: The ad re-creates the public disclosure for the lobbying firm owned by Borski’s father, a former congressman.
But Borski said that’s misleading: “At no point have I ever been a lobbyist.” Rather, she did strictly clerical work for her father’s company, she said.
Philly political scion pleads guilty to tax evasion
The late Bill Miller IV is a legend in Philadelphia politics. He was part of the barrier-breaking coalition of powerful African Americans who helped elect Wilson Goode, the city’s first black mayor.
His son, “Billy,” followed in the old man’s footsteps. He has worked as a political consultant for former District Attorney Seth Williams as well as the city’s influential electricians union. Miller V is a great example of Philly’s dynastic, small-town politics.
On Wednesday, House Miller took a tumble: Miller V pleaded guilty in federal court to evading taxes on nearly $400,000 in income. The assistant U.S. attorneys on the case are the same ones who prosecuted Williams, now serving a five-year jail sentence after admitting to swapping favors for lavish gifts. That led some political insiders to wonder if the charge against Miller was an artifact of the Williams case. Others whispered about what Miller’s plea might mean for the FBI’s current investigation into the electricians union and its leader, John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty.
Asked for comment, Dougherty didn’t address the scuttlebutt. Instead, he heaped praise onto the Miller family. “Billy Miller’s father and I were very close friends,” he said. “Billy has been a major contributor to our very successful get-out-the-vote efforts, handles all of our daily minority media engagement, and has a work ethic that’s second to none. He’s a really good kid.”