Stu Bykofsky: Law, logic tortured by ball-DROPping judge

Lynn: To some observers, decision was politically motivated.
Lynn: To some observers, decision was politically motivated.
Posted: March 28, 2011

REALITY-LOCKED political observers expected Judge Jimmy Lynn last week to knock down lawsuits seeking to knock off three candidates - City Commissioner Marge Tartaglione, Councilman Frank Rizzo and Councilwoman Marian Tasco - who are enrolled in DROP, but who are running for re-election anyway.

What might have surprised some (but not all) observers was the ridicule heaped on the plaintiffs' attorneys by the judge. The lawyers argued that because the Deferred Retirement Option Plan requires an "irrevocable commitment" to retire, the three defendants were in violation.

"That is absurd and tortured thinking that the petitioners bring to this litigation," absurdly wrote the judge (who was "not recommended" by the Philadelphia Bar Association when he ran for retention in 2001).

Let's agree that this isn't an open-and-shut case either way. The DROP ordinance is sometimes squishy as a worm and contradictory. For example, while it demands an "irrevocable commitment" to resign, it also says: "A retiree may be re-hired by the city."

In the Stu-niversity, a re-elected official is not re-hired by the city.

Lynn quoted one section of the DROP ordinance that says: "There is no return to regular employment from a DROP. Once entering DROP, the employee is in the DROP program until separation from city service, at which point the member is retired."

Lynn opined that the language meant only that enrollees could not quit the DROP program. "The DROP ordinance does not mandate that the retiree cannot return to city employment," he said.

You want absurd and tortured? Read the first sentence again: "There is no return to regular employment from a DROP." Lynn's interpretation is so tortured it reads like it came from Abu Ghraib.

Lynn wants to portray attorney Matt Wolfe, challenging Rizzo, and attorney Joe Doherty, challenging Tasco and Tartaglione, as being straight out of Alice in Wonderland, but he is the Mad Hatter.

The reason that informed observers were betting that Lynn would deny the petition is political. As a Common Pleas judge, when Lynn stands for election he would like the support of the party, and both Tartaglione and Tasco are powerful ward leaders. DROP is so intertwined with politics that the case never should have been adjudicated locally, but that was the required first step.

Lynn further ridiculed the petitions by laying out a scenario so woolly it needs to be sheared:

"If the court were to follow the reasoning of the petitioners, which is that a DROP retiree cannot run for elected office, the court would not only render an absurd result, but a ludicrously elitist result as well. Potentially, thousands of former, long-time city employees who happen to have retired using the DROP would be disenfranchised from running for election . . . ."

That water-boards logic.

Elected officials are not "hired" by the city, they are "hired" by the voters (and for this reason don't belong in DROP, and weren't in it, as first drafted).

Elitist? Lynn's ruling protects the elitists, the money-grubbing elected officials who saw an opportunity to strike it rich at taxpayer expense - and took it.

City workers who have retired are free to come out of retirement to take some other city job, even run for office. If they "unretire" to fill the same job, what the hell is the purpose of DROP, Judge Lynn?

In a DROP-linked development, the Fraternal Order of Police, almost unbelievably, did not endorse a Rizzo - Frank - for re-election, because of DROP. The GOP also is shunning its top city vote-getter.

The world is changing, right before our eyes.

We're winning, despite Judge Lynn's tortured metaphors.

Email stubyko@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5977. See Stu on Facebook. For recent columns:

www.philly.com/Byko.

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