Clout: Ex-schools chief Vallas blasts Ackerman's buyout

Posted: August 26, 2011

ADD FORMER Philadelphia School District CEO Paul Vallas to the long list of people furious about the $905,000 bye-bye buyout approved this week to send Arlene Ackerman packing.

Vallas isn't angry at the exiting superintendent. He's fighting mad at Mayor Nutter for green-lighting the deal and City Controller Alan Butkovitz for laying low as it all went down.

Nutter and Butkovitz publicly scrutinized the $180,000 that Vallas received from the district four years ago when he left to run the New Orleans School District.

"The hypocrisy is just overloaded," Vallas railed. "The political establishment there needs a royal kick in the ass."

Vallas, who called us from Haiti because he's helping to rebuild schools, is furious that $405,000 of the Ackerman kiss-off is being funneled through Philadelphia's Children First Fund, a nonprofit he set up to help the district's students in times of emergency.

"To use it for a bailout? That really crosses the line," he said.

Butkovitz, who frequently clashed with Vallas about employees that the city controller has on the school-district payroll, smacked right back at his old foe. He accused Vallas of seeking severance after he landed another job.

That makes the Vallas departure different from Ackerman's exit because she had a contract that said that she could be fired only for cause, giving her a much stronger hand, Butkovitz said.

"Whatever the contract covered, he could get," Butkovitz said of Vallas. "She was willing, obviously, to be fired and then sue. He wanted it both ways."

Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald also pointed to the Vallas and Ackerman contracts to explain how their departures were different.

"Hypocrisy has nothing to do with it," McDonald said. "The law related to contracts does."

Lining up for the 169th

We told you last week of a rumor circulating in the state General Assembly that U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, chairman of the city's Democratic Party, was willing to run a less-than-stellar candidate for the 169th state House seat.

Now Brady has at least two politically well-connected Democrats seeking support for that seat, which will be available in a special election if state Rep. Denny O'Brien, a Republican, wins a City Council at-large seat.

Shawn Dillon, Democratic leader of the 66A Ward and a 26-year employee of the state Auditor General's Office, called Brady seeking support for a run after reading our column.

Ed Neilson, a former political director for Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and former staffer in Gov. Rendell's administration, is also drumming up support.

Dillon said that Brady reached out for him to the other ward leaders in the district who will select a candidate for a special election.

Dillon sat down with Neilson for lunch a while back to discuss their mutual interest in the seat.

Brady said that all this interest should dispel the rumor that he was looking for a slacker candidate. He also said that Local 98 leader John Dougherty made a pitch for Neilson as a candidate.

Don't look for this to be a Brady-Dougherty power struggle by proxy candidates, he advised.

"Me and Johnny aren't going to fight over a legislative seat," he said. "We're going to be together."

We'll see about that.

Neilson didn't respond to our requests for comment, and Local 98 was silent on the issue.

Mystery of the week

City Councilman Frank DiCicco's ex-wife is suing Fox 29 and two of the station's reporters.

We just don't know why.

Fran DiCicco's attorney filed a "writ of summons" in Common Pleas Court last Friday for a libel or slander case, the first step in suing Fox 29 and reporters Steve Keeley and Claudia Gomez.

(Disclosure: Gomez and I serve together on the board of governors of the Pen & Pencil Club.)

The attorney and DiCicco did not file a complaint detailing her reasons for suing. They also did not respond to our calls or emails.

We're betting this is about the Delaware River Port Authority, where Fran DiCicco works as an administrative coordinator. Her ex-husband was on the DRPA board.

Fox 29, especially with Keeley, spent a lot of time last year banging the reform drum for DRPA.


"Cheri Honkala's campaign for sheriff of Philadelphia is the most significant move that is being made in America to challenge the out-of-control banks, and she deserves our support."

- Former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who jumped from the Democratic Party to the Green Party and recently railed against U.S. foreign policy on Libya state-controlled television while Moammar Gadhafi was in power. McKinney, who praises Green Party candidate Cheri Honkala's vow to end sheriff sales, will campaign for her here tonight.

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