Joan Markman, ex-prosecutor who wrote Archie-Evans report, is close to Nutter

City Chief Integrity Officer Joan Markman.
City Chief Integrity Officer Joan Markman.
Posted: September 24, 2011

In City Hall, only one cabinet member works next door to Mayor Nutter: Chief Integrity Officer Joan Markman.

Her spot at the left hand of Philadelphia's mayor is symbolic.

Markman was a lead prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's "bug" investigation of Mayor John F. Street's City Hall. By placing her office so close to his, Nutter signaled that city employees would have to behave.

On Thursday, Markman, at Nutter's request, extended her reach to two of the mayor's own allies: State Rep. Dwight Evans and Robert L. Archie Jr., former chairman of the School Reform Commission.

Markman's report, on the clandestine pressure Evans and Archie exerted to swing control of Martin Luther King High School to a nonprofit connected to Evans, drew back the curtain on backroom Philadelphia politics.

The publication of the report in full was a remarkable moment in the city's political history, an extraordinary commitment to transparency, or a self-serving political betrayal, depending on whom you ask.

A trim 53-year-old who enjoys hiking and whitewater rafting, Markman is candid, even blunt - qualities reflected in her report.

"Archie's and Evans' actions in this matter have compromised the School District of Philadelphia's ability to secure parent involvement in their children's schools, to make decisions according to a fair process, and to garner public confidence in those decisions," she wrote.

Archie, who talked to Markman for the report, called the findings "not supported by fact." Evans, who didn't, also disagreed with her conclusions.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz said Markman "did ferret out a lot of facts."

But the investigation, he said, should have been done by someone completely independent of the mayor, because Nutter played a role in the story.

Former Philadelphia School Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman told The Inquirer on Thursday that she had complained to Nutter about the pressure from Evans and Archie and that Nutter threw up his hands.

Markman said Nutter had already told her of Ackerman's complaint himself. Nutter told Markman that he had asked Archie to look into Ackerman's complaints about Evans. In the end, Markman's report found that Archie had facilitated, and been a party to, Evans' political pressure. Evans was also a client of Archie's law firm.

Markman is not the only enforcer in the administration with a prosecutorial background. City Inspector General Amy Kurland, who lent Markman an investigator for the Evans-Archie report, was also a federal prosecutor.

Although this is the first time Markman has had to investigate associates of the mayor's, it's not the first time she has taken on Philadelphia's political establishment.

In 2010, Markman forced Natalia Olson Urtecho to resign from both the Zoning Code Commission and Planning Commission after discovering that Urtecho had raised money for Joe Sestak's U.S. Senate campaign.

Many observers, including Ackerman, wondered why Markman's School District investigation, which began in April, took so long.

Zack Stalberg, head of the watchdog group Committee of Seventy, praised the report, but said he believed its release might have been delayed to allow Archie a graceful exit.

Markman, however, said illness, not political interference, caused the delay. On July 1, as she was preparing the report, she discovered a lump in her breast. "I'm happy to say it's treatable," she said of her cancer diagnosis. "I've been told the prognosis is good. I would like to have gotten it [the report] to him [Nutter] sooner. I just couldn't."

She has witnessed plenty of questionable, and even illegal, behaviors by politicians and city workers. As a federal prosecutor, she put City Treasurer Corey Kemp behind bars for 10 years for accepting bribes from Street fund-raiser Ronald White.

Despite her experience, she believes that most public employees want to do the right thing. A big part of her job as integrity officer - the city's first - is educating workers on ethics. As the result of her talks, city workers now know they can't accept "tips," for example.

When it comes to ethics, Markman doesn't see a lot of gray area.

She told a rabbi who was bringing challah to the mayor and other officials to stop, because such gifts represent an effort to gain favor. She even called the Brooklyn, N.Y., bakery where the rabbi was buying the bread and found out that the mayor alone was probably getting $1,400 worth of the bread yearly.

One of Markman's big goals has been making ethics easy for employees. She created a website, IntegrityWorks (www.phila.gov/integrityworks), that lays out city rules. The site even has form letters so that an employee can, for example, simply fill in a few blanks to explain a potential financial conflict.

"I think it's really, really important, because I think most people who work for the city really want to do the right thing," she said. "And I think if you expect people to do the right thing, you have to give them the rules."


Contact staff writer Miriam Hill

at 215-854-5520, hillmb@phillynews.com, or @miriamhill on Twitter.

 

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