Clout: GOP mayoral candidate no stranger to money woes

Posted: April 29, 2011

THE PAPER trail on Karen Brown, the Democratic committeewoman-turned-GOP-recruited candidate for mayor, leads down a long road of financial woe.

Brown declared for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in federal court four times from 1997 to 2007.

She faced mortgage-foreclosure actions five times in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court from 2002 to last year.

The city has filed liens against her in Common Pleas Court for unpaid Philadelphia Gas Works bills five times since 2004, including one last month for $508.57.

And Brown sued the Philadelphia City Commission in September, claiming that she was unfairly fired from her job there in 2009.

It's not all bad news. Brown's financial-disclosure form says that she received $50,000 last year from a personal-injury case. She lists one mortgage under creditors.

This is all striking because Brown, trying to look past GOP primary challenger John Featherman, called out Mayor Nutter on city fiscal issues this week.

"Fiscal responsibility has been lacking in the Democrats," Brown said while explaining her political defection. "I've never really agreed with how they spent our money. And it is our money."

Brown has explanations for her own financial troubles.

She said she and her husband started buying properties and rehabbing them with family help in the late 1990s. But then her husband, who works for SEPTA, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and missed two years of work.

The bankruptcies were the only way to hang on to the five properties, including their home. They're down to two properties now.

Then, Brown said, she was injured when a cab she was riding in was struck from behind. That led to serious back and neck trouble and the $50,000 settlement.

Brown said she then lost her job at the City Commission after getting into a beef with then-Deputy City Commissioner Renee Tartaglione Matos. Brown claims that she was demoted to a job that required physical lifting, which aggravated her existing injuries.

The city denies that claim.

Tartaglione Matos, who was forced to retire in November after admitting that she had violated the city-charter ban on political activity, told us that she doesn't know much about Brown's lawsuit.

Brown, who earned $43,830 in pay and overtime in 2008, her last full year at that job, claims that the city wrongly fired her while she was on leave for her injuries.

"I'm just like every taxpayer out there, struggling to get by," Brown said.

This all raises a question about how the Republican City Committee leadership vetted Brown while recruiting her to challenge Featherman in the primary.

Featherman said that GOP Chairman Vito Canuso and general counsel Michael Meehan asked if he had any "dirty laundry" they should know about. They then recruited Brown into the race.

"They obviously did not vet this person," he said of Brown.

Canuso said Brown was upfront about her money trouble.

"The facts are the facts," he said. "We didn't go over all the specifics, but we were aware that those things were in existence."

I'll show you mine if . . .

Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez and her challenger for the 7th District seat in the May 17 Democratic primary, former Councilman Dan Savage, exchanged unsubstantiated accusations last week followed up with dares to release personal documents.

Neither has asked for the other's birth certificate. So far.

Savage called on Quinones-Sanchez to release her tax returns. He claimed during a debate that her husband had a politically connected school-district contract.

Quinones-Sanchez denied that and offered to release her taxes if Savage released his E-ZPass records. She claimed that he has lived with a girlfriend in New Jersey for three years. Savage denies that.

Savage tells us that he doesn't have an E-ZPass but yesterday authorized a release of any records kept by the service.

Quinones-Sanchez then claimed that Savage, who is on leave from a job at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, has a "nonrevenue card" for free tolls on state roads and bridges to New Jersey. Savage denies that, too.

Quinones-Sanchez dropped off her tax return yesterday. It shows that her husband's sole source of reported income is from his job at Temple University.

Free to pee your pay elsewhere

Maybe C. Ryan Berridge wasn't expecting a response when he fired off an email to every member of City Council last week about legislation to ban employers from asking job applicants about their criminal history until after an initial interview.

He's not a fan of that new law.

"While I am not a city resident, I do piss my hard earned money into your coffers for working in the city," Berridge wrote, adding that the law could bring more criminals to Philadelphia.

He concluded his email this way: "The things that come out of Philadelphia's Council and Mayor's office does not surprise me anymore. There is a reason why I take the precautions I do when I come into the city!"

Councilman Jim Kenney responded by sending Berridge a copy of the law and this advice:

"You do not have to 'piss' your hard earned money into our coffers any more if you so wish. If you desire, you can find a comparable job outside of the City of Philadelphia and 'piss' your money somewhere else. I'm sure we and your employer will survive."

Kenney wrapped up his response: "Have a blessed day."

Have tips or suggestions? Call Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or email

brennac@phillynews.com.

Check out the Clout blog at:

www.phillyclout.com.


Have a news tip? Gossip? Suggestion? Call Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or Catherine Lucey at 215-854-4712. Or e-mail phillyclout@phillynews.com.

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