Bob Brady has promised that, if he is elected Philadelphia's mayor, he'll fight no-bid contracts and nepotism. He was the first candidate to sign a pledge promising to wipe them out.
But for four Brady family members, it might not make a difference. They already have government jobs or benefit from a no-bid contract, an Inquirer review shows.
Brady's wife is paid $100,000 a year by a politically connected firm that delivers official notices of lawsuits. In eight years, the city has not bid out the contract.
His son works for the Pennsylvania Turnpike, his daughter for the state lottery. His brother is a Municipal Court judge.
Brady says he pulled no strings for his relatives and praised their professional abilities.
"It's a small town," Brady said when asked why so many family members had government jobs or contracts.
Brady declined to discuss the issue at length, saying his campaign schedule permitted him only 10 minutes to answer questions.
"Debby's not running for mayor," he said, bristling at questions about his wife. "I'm running for mayor."
Brady also said he supported putting up for bid the lucrative contract held by the firm that employs his wife.
Among the five candidates for the Democratic mayoral nomination, Brady is not the only one with a relative on a public payroll or benefiting from a public contract. For example, Dwight Evans' mother once worked for the Philadelphia Parking Authority, retiring from her job a decade ago. One of Evans' brothers still works for the Parking Authority, and another works for the Philadelphia Gas Works.
But of the five Democratic candidates for the May 15 primary, Brady appears to have the most close relatives who benefit from government.
And Brady is uniquely immersed in patronage politics. For 21 years, he has run the Democratic Party organization in Philadelphia - an apparatus he once called "the largest unemployment agency in the state."
Kate Philips, Brady's campaign spokeswoman, said Brady was a magnet for people who needed work.
"Bob Brady has helped a lot of people get jobs and he will continue to help people get jobs, not only in the public sector, but in the private sector," Philips said. "It's not about handing out political favors. It's about helping people out who need a little help."
Philips said Debra Brady and other family members declined to comment.
In campaign ads, Brady promises to be "the change Philadelphia needs." St. Joseph's University history professor Randall Miller, a longtime observer of Philadelphia politics, said the jobs held by Brady's family might muddy that message.
"The key thing about a candidate for change is that appearances and perceptions really do matter," Miller said.
A former carpenter, Brady, 62, got his start in government in 1975 as a driver for a City Council president. Brady was elected to the U.S. House in 1998.
With his first wife, Ellen, Brady has two children, Kimberly and Robert.
He married Debra L. Brady in 1999. She now works as office manager for Philadelphia Writ Service, which holds a no-bid contract to deliver notices of lawsuits for the city Law Department and other agencies.
The company was created in January 1999, about four months before it won the city job. So far, the city has paid the firm about $9 million, renewing the deal each year without seeking competitive bids.
That arrangement is unusual, said David Schirtzer of the New York State Professional Process Servers Association.
"Something as big as Philadelphia, I'm very surprised that it is a no-bid situation. Especially if it's a million dollars a year," Schirtzer said.
In an interview, Philadelphia Writ's owner, Mitchell Rubin, said his company charged fair prices, had professionalized operations, and had boosted the city's success in recovering money from tax deadbeats and others.
"The city was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said, saying he "dramatically increased" efficiency.
Rubin, a close friend of State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, is married to Ruth Arnao, a longtime Fumo aide. Fumo and Arnao have been indicted on federal charges that they misused funds from the state and from a nonprofit organization.
No matter who is elected, the contract should come up for bids this summer. A law passed after the city's recent "pay for play" scandals requires competitive bidding for such work.
Several other writ-service firms said last week that they wished they had had a chance to compete earlier.
"Typical Philadelphia politics," complained Shawn Schaffer of the firm Legal Errands in Center City.
Joe Grace, Mayor Street's spokesman, said Street never sought bids in part because no one had a problem with Philadelphia Writ's performance. Street's predecessor, Ed Rendell, originally awarded the no-bid contract, Grace noted.
As for Debra Brady, Rubin said she was a key employee, handling billing, payroll and office management. Rubin said she had a flexible schedule, sometimes working at home on a computer.
Although he said her husband had no role in her being hired, Rubin said her family background had one plus: It made it easier to ride herd on the firm's workers, many of whom have Democratic Party ties.
"Who are they going to complain to, Bob Brady?" Rubin asked.
Before joining Philadelphia Writ, Debra Brady worked for 25 years at the city Redevelopment Authority - where Brady once was a board member.
For four years in the early 1980s, Debra Brady also worked part-time as an Eagles cheerleader. At the RDA, she eventually became director of relocation and property management.
Debra Brady holds other influential positions in Philadelphia.
As one of five board members on the Philadelphia Housing Authority, she helps preside over an agency with a $350 million budget, 2,000 employees and 80,000 low-income residents.
According to PHA records, she has the worst attendance record of any current board member - having missed more than half of all sessions since joining the board in 2000.
In the last two years, her absenteeism has gotten worse. She showed up only five of 19 times.
She was first nominated to the unpaid position by then-City Controller Jonathan Saidel, a co-chair of Brady's mayoral campaign. Saidel pointed to her work at the Redevelopment Authority: "I thought she was competent enough to know what was going on."
Since 2005, she has also served on the board of Independence Blue Cross, where she is paid $10,500 yearly, and $800 per meeting attended.
Why is she on the board? Elizabeth Williams, Blue Cross spokeswoman, said she was a member of a Blue Cross plan.
"She is on our board as a consumer," she said.
In one sense, Rubin is boss to both Bob Brady's wife and his son, Robert F. Brady.
The younger Brady was hired in 2003 by the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Rubin is chairman of the Turnpike Commission; he first joined the commission to fill a seat by the elder Brady.
Rubin declined comment when asked whether he had helped the younger Brady get the position. Brady's son previously worked for the city Recreation Department, a job he won by passing a civil service exam, his father said. When the younger Brady left the city payroll in 2003, he was being paid $41,810 a year.
At the turnpike, Brady's son, 34, works as assistant director of operations in the eastern region. He was hired at an annual salary of $72,000 and now makes $86,000, a turnpike spokesman said yesterday.
As for Brady's daughter, Kimberly Marie Eager, 32, she was hired in 2005 by the lottery as a district lottery representative at an annual salary of $35,638.
In all, the lottery system has 95 such representatives who keep retailers stocked with games and ad material, as well as try to recruit new outlets.
Eager declined comment last week. A spokesman for the lottery said yesterday that it never commented on hiring decisions.
In a lawsuit, the former top administrator of Philadelphia courts claimed that Bob Brady reached into the court system in 1995 to help his brother, Frank T. Brady, get a job there.
Bob Brady said that this allegation by Geoff Gallas was "absolutely, positively, not true."
In 1995, Frank Brady was an an employee of the District Attorney's Office but wanted a new job with the courts.
In the suit, Gallas contended that he was demoted because he would not go along with the patronage demands of Brady and Fumo - an allegation rejected by the party chairman and state senator.
As an example, Gallas said that Judge Alex Bonavitacola told him Bob Brady wanted a job for his brother as a "prerequisite" for supporting Bonavitacola's bid to become president judge of Common Pleas Court.
Gallas said that he reluctantly agreed to hire Frank Brady as an assistant jury commissioner. Even so, he said, Bonavitacola told him that Bob Brady was incensed that his Frank had to go to a job interview. Bob Brady wanted "no-wait hires," Gallas said.
Bonavitacola, who retired last year, said last week that Bob Brady had never asked him to find the brother a job and that he had never told Gallas he had.
Gallas said: "I stand by the allegations in the lawsuit."
Gallas' suit was dismissed in 1998 after a judge said Gallas' lawyers were too slow to interview witnesses.
Brady and Fumo - who called the allegations of political interference laughable - filed their own suit against Gallas and his lawyers and, in 2000, split a settlement of about $800,000.
Frank Brady held the assistant jury commissioner's job for only two years. In 1997, he was elected to Municipal Court with the official endorsement of the Democratic Party organization, headed by his older brother.
The Candidates and the Pledge
In January, the city campaign watchdog group, the Committee of Seventy, issued a 28-point agenda encouraging transparency and clean government in City Hall. Among other points, the list called for mayoral candidates to oppose nepotism and limit no-bid contracts.
Bob Brady was the first to sign on. Rivals Dwight Evans and Tom Knox quickly followed suit.
Two other candidates, Michael Nutter and Chaka Fattah, said they supported the Committee of Seventy's goals, but instead chose to issue their own detailed ethics plans.
To read the Committee of Seventy ethics agenda, go to http://go.philly.com/ethicsagenda
To read Nutter's proposal, go to http://www.nutter2007.com/index.php?/issues/
To read Fattah's proposal, go to http://www.phillyforfattah.com/policy_center.asp
- Marcia Gelbart
Contact staff writer Craig R. McCoy at 215-854-4821 or at email@example.com.