In his desire to move the District Attorney's Office in a "different direction," progressive reformer Larry Krasner has stepped off on the wrong foot with secrecy shrouding the elimination of 31 staffers — so far.
There is no question that the new DA has the right to appoint new staff and eliminate existing staff. During the campaign, he was touted as a change agent and even a disrupter. So he's disrupting.
As far as I can tell, 31 was a greater toll than under any of the last four DAs — Seth Williams, Lynne Abraham, Ed Rendell, or Ron Castille.
"One thing Larry has been clear about," said spokesman Ben Waxman, "is, we are not going to comment on specific individuals" who were let go. The office didn't release a list of names, but many of the names quickly became public.
Waxman said it would be "not fair" to release the names.
I think there are two reasons the names and causes of separation should be released.
First, generally speaking, people get fired when they do something wrong. The 31 are under a cloud of suspicion that they did something wrong in an office whose last elected leader wound up in jail.
When there is no "why," you get rumors and conspiracy theories.
Were some incompetent? Did some goof off? Had they done something wrong? Did they beat Krasner in court? Did they have have a run-in with Krasner's wife, Common Pleas Court Judge Lisa Rau? Were the discharges based on policy or on personality?
The second reason for transparency is that we the people, who pay the salaries, have an interest in learning why they were discharged. The second reason relates to the first — if they did something wrong, we should know. If they are being punished for beliefs that are contrary to Krasner's, we should know that, too.
One thing you'd expect from a reformer is a pledge of transparency, but that was not among the things that animated the Krasner campaign.
The big three principles, harking back to the campaign, were dismantling the death penalty, finding a way to get rid of cash bail that seriously impacts poor defendants charged with low-level crimes, and a tooling back of the civil-asset forfeiture policy that reportedly had been abused by the previous administration.
"The DA is seeking a cultural change and some have to do with policies and personnel," said Waxman.
There will be a "significant reorganization in coming days" of the office, Waxman said.
It's Krasner's office — he won handily in November and has a mandate from the voters to change direction and change culture, but I'm still unclear about what "culture" needs changing.
If he wants to keep Philadelphians behind him, Krasner had better give a thought to telling them what he is doing, and why.