ON THE MENU TODAY, fricassee du Frank.
But which one?
Fumocrat and up-from-the-ranks Frank DiCicco?
Or mayoral offspring and one-time Peco lineman Frank Rizzo Jr.?
Both Council members are in line to wet their beaks in the despised, taxpayer-provided DROP Power Ball payout. To qualify for the lovely parting gift, they made an "irrevocable commitment" to retire.
Despite the "irrevocable" promise, their game was to "retire" for a nanosecond, then "return" to work, a smarmy bit of larceny pioneered four years ago by Councilwoman Joan Krajewski and Chairwoman of the City Commissioners Marge Tartaglione. While they all insist DROP is not a cash windfall, would they have lined up if it weren't a financial bedazzler?
That was then. Now, the Deferred Retirement Option Plan is toxic. The kitchen lights have been turned on and the cockroaches are scattering.
Citizens are glowing like barbecue charcoal over DROP, which has cost this cash-strapped city more than a quarter-billion dollars since 1999.
DiCicco is darting like a dog in traffic to avoid getting hit. Almost every day, he hatches a new offer. He'll quit DROP. He'll turn his salary back to the city. He'll ride a unicorn to Council meetings.
Rizzo, who had been defiant about taking the DROP perk, is softening and thinking about not taking the money.
We're winning. They're on the run.
Last week Council President Anna C. Verna pulled the plug on her plan to collect her $584,778 DROP bonus, make a sham retirement and then return to work.
Instead, she'll ride into the sunset, joining Krajewski (who already got her money, $274,587), plus Donna Reed Miller ($195,782) and Jack Kelly ($405,438) in real retirement. Councilwoman Marian Tasco, also in DROP ($478,057), is ready to march to the cashier's window, but you can't pry a comment out of her with a hot, buttered knife.
OK! I decided: DiCicco gets the grill today.
In Council last week, DiCicco was busy gaming the system. Again. He devised what he hopes will be an escape chamber for himself - and other fearful-of-the-voters elected officials - from the DROP shaft in which they find themselves trapped like Chilean miners.
DiCicco's ploy? Allow city employees enrolled in DROP to slip out of the golden noose. Another DROP enrollee, Register of Wills Ron Donatucci, is so desperate to escape he's willing to consider letting the city keep his $370,000 perk. Giving instead of taking? Whoa!
The pot o' gold that once looked so attractive is radioactive.
We're winning. They're on the run.
DROP was devised primarily, many believe, as a tool to help managers plan future staffing levels by knowing when to expect retirements. (Why managers couldn't just ask staffers about retirement without a financial bonus is another matter.)
The first draft of the DROP bill - introduced by DiCicco - did not include elected officials. The next draft - amazingly - did. How'd that happen? Why did it happen? Whom did it benefit?
DiCicco's new scheme is municipal three-card monte. Follow the red queen:
First, DROP was "irrevocable" - get the money, retire. The chiselers then fixed it so they could grab the cash and return to their jobs. Now, with the heat going up, the rats want to be able to drop out of DROP.
It's a sign of the sense of entitlement of some elected officials who recognize no boundaries when it comes to what they want.
Don't like the rules? Rewrite them!
But wait. If DiCicco's dodge allows enrollees to opt out of DROP whenever they want, that destroys DROP's very purpose.
DiCicco says he made a mistake when he enrolled in DROP. Mistakes have consequences. You don't get to rewrite the rules just because someone put "honorable" in front of your name. Frank, it is time for you to go.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-854-5977. See Stu on Facebook. For recent columns: