Tasco & Rizzo are last 2 Council DROP-ers

Marian Tasco
Marian Tasco
Posted: March 08, 2011

And then there were two.

City Councilman Frank DiCicco's announcement yesterday that he would not seek re-election means that the number of Council members looking to take DROP payments and serve another term is down to just two - Frank Rizzo and Marian Tasco.

On top of another term, Tasco is also seeking to serve as the next Council president. If she can pull it off, should her nickname be Teflon Tasco?

"It depends on who the new people are, that could have an impact," said DiCicco of Tasco's presidential chances in a Council that will have at least five new members.

Tasco, who is not expected to face a serious primary opponent, did not return calls for comment from the Daily News yesterday. She is set to receive a $478,057 DROP payment. Her likely opposition in the race for Council president is Darrell Clarke.

DiCicco yesterday said he didn't want to spend the next 10 weeks defending his decision to enter the controversial Deferred Retirement Option Plan against a host of aggressive opponents in South Philadelphia's 1st Councilmanic District.

"I don't want that to be my legacy," said DiCicco, who will receive $424,646 from DROP. He had pledged to donate his salary back to the city if re-elected to avoid the appearance of a double-dip.

DiCicco's announcement makes him the fourth Council DROP enrollee to decide against a re-election bid. The others are Jack Kelly, Donna Reed Miller and Anna Verna. Councilwoman Joan Krajewski, who took a DROP payment in 2007 before returning to serve another term, is also set to leave at the end of the year.

Under DROP, city workers make an irrevocable commitment to set a retirement date up to four years in advance. At that point, they start accruing pension payments in an interest-bearing account and collect those payments in a lump sum upon retirement, along with their monthly pension checks.

But a loophole in the DROP legislation allows elected officials to enroll in the program, run for re-election, "retire" for a day to collect the payout, and then get re-hired and sworn in for another term. This scheme - used by Krajewski in 2007 - has been widely criticized by city voters and good-government groups.

Rizzo, set to receive $194,518, said yesterday that he still planned to run, but promised to either opt out of the program, if permitted, or donate money to the city to make his participation cost-neutral. He said he didn't know how much that would be.

"I'm not quitting. I just filed 1,600 signatures on my nominating petition," Rizzo said. "I don't want to be disrespectful [of DiCicco]. I have more fire in my belly I guess."

Candidates for the 1st District Council seat have slammed DiCicco on DROP, but they were less eager to criticize Tasco or Rizzo yesterday.

One of them, Joe Grace, said that only Tasco and Rizzo could say if they should retire instead of running for re-election. Pressed for an answer, Grace said it was wrong for any Council member to collect a DROP payment and return to the city payroll after re-election.

Vern Anastasio agreed that Tasco and Rizzo should retire when their terms end, adding, "It would be nice if everyone just did what they were supposed to do so we could talk about something other than DROP."

Jeff Hornstein called DROP a "side issue" in the campaign but said that elected officials should retire when they collect the DROP payment.

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