Register of Wills Donatucci DROPs plan to retire

Donatucci
Donatucci
Posted: January 27, 2011

Register of Wills Ron Donatucci plans to seek re-election this year, despite joining the DROP program, which will deliver a $368,000 retirement check to him early next year.

Donatucci said yesterday that he initially intended to retire at the end of this year, but changed his mind after the recent death of his brother and the swirling talk of eliminating city row offices.

"A number of my employees asked me to stay and make sure nothing happened to the office," he said. "We get high ratings from the Bar Association and the public. . . . And then my brother [state Rep. Robert Donatucci] passed away. . . . Now with Anna Verna not running, there's a real power vacuum. . . . I'm being asked to stay to help constituents in my area."

Donatucci, the Democratic leader of South Philadelphia's 26th Ward, said he hopes to get out of DROP, the Deferred Retirement Option Plan. It allows city employees to amass up to four years' worth of pension payments, plus interest, during their last four years on the city payroll.

The decision to join the program is supposed to be irrevocable, requiring employees who sign up to retire within four years. But former city solicitor Romulo Diaz carved out an exemption for elected officials, allowing them to sign up for DROP, run for re-election, "retire" for a day, collect up to four years' worth of pension payments and then embark on new four-year terms.

Donatucci, who just turned 63, has run the register's office since 1980 and collects a $117,991 city salary, while maintaining a law practice and a real-estate business on the side.

His office handles paperwork for wills and estates and collects inheritance taxes for the state, besides issuing marriage licenses.

Its work force, about 65 people, is exempt from the city's civil-service system and includes a number of Democratic ward leaders and committee people.

The Committee of Seventy, the city's most prominent government-watchdog group, issued a report two years ago that urged the Legislature to abolish the elected office and give its duties to the court system.

Donatucci said he supports a recently announced effort by Councilman Frank DiCicco to change the rules of DROP, to allow city employees to get out after they've signed up. If Council fails to approve the change, Donatucci said, he'll look for another way to avoid taking the money.

How about just taking the $368,000 and donating it back to the city?

"I'll consider that," he said.

|
|
|
|
|