Street's $10,000 Question What Was The Money For, Mayor?

Posted: September 24, 2004

YESTERDAY, as municipal unions yelled and screamed their way into City Hall, Mayor Street quietly introduced ethics regulations for Council's consideration.

We'll have more to say about those proposals - and a competing plan from Councilman Michael Nutter - later. But for now it's going to be tough to take any of Street's ethics proposals seriously as long as he continues to stonewall the city about the mysterious $10,000 check he got from West Insurance Group.

The insurance company, which has won no-bid contracts from the Street administration, gave Street the check in 1998. The company says it was for a speech Street, then Council president, gave. Carl Singley, formerly one of Street's closest advisers but now one of his most bitter critics, says the money was a legal retainer. The FBI is now investigating as part of its wide-ranging pay-for-play probe at City Hall.

Street could clear up the matter now with a few succinct answers. But he refuses.

"Tempted as I am to comment, I just don't think it's a good idea," said Street. "I will, however, reiterate that I've done nothing wrong."

That may well be true but let the public be the judge of that, Mayor Street. And the only way they can do that is with some hard facts.

Street says he won't comment because the matter is under federal investigation. That may be his reason, but it's no excuse.

Even if the check was before a federal grand jury, Street is free to answer questions from the public and the press. Only prosecutors and members of the grand jury are under a gag order.

In fact, more grand jury testimony, not less, will soon be public knowledge now that a federal judge has ruled that defense attorneys can release FBI interviews and grand jury testimony on the pay-to-play probe to reporters. Both the city and FBI tried to block the release.

Street may want to keep the lid on, but if he wants to have an effective second term, he's going to have to start answering some questions. *

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