Head of city tax board resigns, as little progress seen on changes

Enrico "Ricky" Foglia, 80, had headed the BRT since 1991.
Enrico "Ricky" Foglia, 80, had headed the BRT since 1991.
Posted: September 04, 2009

Enrico "Ricky" Foglia, who parlayed his political connections into a $98,300 job running the troubled Board of Revision of Taxes, says he is retiring in two weeks.

Foglia, 80, said he had been under pressure from BRT board members to leave since an Inquirer series in May detailed cronyism, incompetence, and corruption at the agency, which is responsible for setting tax values for all properties in Philadelphia.

"That's what they wanted. That's what I gave them," Foglia said in an interview yesterday.

"Thirty-eight years in that place," he said. "After that time, you're telling me I can't do my job? Isn't that cute?"

It's not clear whether the BRT plans to replace Foglia or get rid of the job. BRT Chairwoman Charlesretta Meade and board members Russell M. Nigro and Robert N.C. Nix 3d did not respond to requests for comment.

Though he served as executive director with a generous salary, Foglia's duties were limited. With no college degree or qualifications as an appraiser, Foglia said he had nothing to do with assessments.

The agency's real estate evaluators answer to a chief appraiser. That job has been filled on an acting basis by Barry Mescolotto, who was criticized in May by the city inspector general for working on his family's electrical supply business on city time and not paying business taxes.

In large part, Foglia's job was to handle the patronage side of the BRT's staff - the clerical workers referred to the agency by the Democratic and Republican organizations.

Those 78 positions are funded by the Philadelphia School District to sidestep the ban on political activity by city employees.

At a Council hearing in May, Foglia struggled to describe his duties.

"I report to the chairman if there is a problem," he said. "If there's a problem with school board employees, I answer to the [administrative services director], and then we settle it."

Foglia told Council members that the BRT had had an executive director "since God was born."

"A lot's changed since God was born," Councilman Bill Green replied.

Foglia started at the agency as a patronage worker in 1972, thanks to his work for the Democratic Committee in the 34th Ward - the home base of U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the city's Democratic leader.

The BRT's former chairman, David B. Glancey, said in an earlier interview that Brady backed Foglia for the executive director job. "It was the political realities of the times," he said.

Brady had nothing to do with his decision to leave, Foglia said. "Bobby didn't put pressure on me," said Foglia, who said he had been hospitalized with neck pains, shingles, and other problems.

"When I told him, he said: 'What do you want to do something like that for?' I said I was just tired."

Brady said he did not have time to discuss Foglia yesterday.

Foglia became executive director in 1991. In 2007, he retired, and collected a $104,950 early pension payment under the city's DROP program. Two days later, BRT board members hired him back with a $6,536 raise.

Foglia's city pension will be at least $2,100 per month. Combined with a state pension from his years as a school board BRT worker, he will get a total of around $35,364 per year.

Meanwhile, with Council in recess and the Nutter administration preoccupied with its Harrisburg budget fight, there has been little visible progress on the joint pledge Nutter and City Council President Anna C. Verna made in May to "reform, restructure, or dissolve" the BRT.

Behind the scenes, a working group of Council staffers and administration officials has been examining the structure of the BRT and the quality of its new property assessments, the Actual Value Initiative.

But the task force has no authority to make changes. Indeed, Council members have even requested that the group not make policy recommendations.

Rather, the task force will simply outline possibilities for change for Council and Nutter to consider this fall. City Solicitor Shelley Smith, a member of the working group, said those options would include an analysis of pros and cons. She declined to describe any of the potential changes.

By Sept. 17, when Council returns from recess, the group expects to present options for remaking the BRT, ranging from tweaks, such as changing who appoints the agency's board, to a wholesale dismantling.

One possibility discussed at length is splitting the BRT in two: Property assessors would work directly for city government, while an independent board would hear assessment appeals.

What role, if any, there would be for a new executive director is unclear, working group participants said.

Foglia said he would try to get a part-time job. He said he would have been willing to work at half the pay for a different job at the BRT.

"They could have had the salary. What do I care? I just wanted to do something," Foglia said.

He said he thinks he deserved better from his agency at the end of his career.

"Everybody's ruthless, looking out for themselves," he said. "It's a shame."


 

Read "Tax Travesty," a three-part series on chaos and cronyism inside the BRT, at


Contact staff writer Joseph Tanfani at 215-854-2684 or jtanfani@phillynews.com.

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