Down at the Penn's Landing Corp., power lawyer Leonard Ross is gone but not forgotten.
Ross, a longtime friend of Mayor Street, was sentenced last August to 2 1/2 years in federal prison on corruption charges related to his misdeeds as a Penn's Landing board member evaluating waterfront development proposals.
At sentencing, Ross declared, "I deserve to go to jail." He's now in the federal prison at Fort Dix, N.J., hoping to get out in late 2008.
But yesterday, during an executive session of the Penn's Landing board, John Dougherty, the electrician's union leader, asked the board to declare Ross' seat vacant, which it did.
The Street administration later said that while it supported the board's action, it wasn't necessary because Ross automatically lost his seat upon sentencing.
Joe Grace, Mayor Street's spokesman, said that Ross was automatically "off the board when his conviction became final last August at sentencing.
"It has been our practice, although it hasn't happened often, but if a city official or employee is charged with anything in connection with the on-going federal investigation that they resign or are removed," Grace said.
The mayor's office apparenbtly never informed Penn's Landing of the removal.
Dougherty said he's been pushing the Penn's Landing board to observe state "sunshine law" requirements, so far without success.
"I learned that Len Ross was still on the board, and though I like him personally, I think his presence casts a long shadow over the board," he said.
After some discussion, the board agreed with Dougherty, and board chairman Gene Newton issued a statement saying that it "has declared vacant the seat formerly held by Leonard Ross."
Newton added that the board action was a formality because Ross had not "attended or participated" a board or committee meeting "in well over two years."
In fact, records show Ross last participated in September 2004, about a month before Street declared dead the city's most recent effort to retain a developer and make something of Penn's Landing.
But if Ross has not participated since late 2004 and was automatically removed last August, why hasn't Street appointed a replacement for Ross or filled roughly four or five other vacancies?
"I think there are enough members on the board to conduct the business of the board," Grace said.