Stu Bykofsky: Hard-core arrogant vs. contrite

Posted: January 06, 2012

COUNCILWOMAN Marian Tasco is unhappy about the press attention - mostly Daily News scorn and ridicule - to her immoral Powerball pension bonus. Poor baby.

She snatched a $478,057 pot o' gold, which she wouldn't have gotten if decency prevailed, and she's the injured party?

She got the money under the ill-designed Deferred Retirement Option Plan, the despised DROP, which was not intended for elected officials but which morphed into an entitlement for them.

The idea of DROP for elected officials stinks like week-old calamari, but some Council cretins, including Tasco, made it worse by snaking through a loophole that allowed them to retire - despite an "irrevocable commitment" to leave - and return to work anyway. No cop, no firefighter, no auditor, no janitor enrolled in DROP could do that. But those we elect? No problem.

Thanks to the last election, there's been a tectonic shift in Council, with six freshmen trooping into work this week, added to the three neophytes elected four years ago. That's nine newbies - a majority of Council.

We'll see if the current crop are dedicated public servants looking to make your life better, or grifters seeking to slip into ermine robes.

One thing's for sure - with voters throwing (Republican Councilman) Frank Rizzo and (Democrat City Commissioner) Marge Tartaglione out of office - notice has been served. The people are mad as hell and aren't going to take it any more.

Marge and Franny were involuntary retirements. Under intense heat, a fearful bunch of DROP-collecting pols took the retirement money and decided to actually retire. Bye-bye Anna Verna, Frank DiCicco, Jack Kelly, Donna Reed Miller, Joan Krajewski. Thank you for your service.

Another DROP villain is Register of Wills Ron Donatucci, who pocketed about $367,000 for his faux retirement, but took less heat.

Why? First, he has a much lower profile than Tasco, until this week the majority leader of Council. Second, after DROP became a hot potato, Donatucci was contrite, tried to get out of DROP. Third, he answered questions from the press, unlike Tasco, who wouldn't return reporters' calls but went yelping to the editor of this paper.

In an exclusive interview yesterday, Donatucci told me he would refund more than $28,000 of his DROP bonus - "the amount I made on interest" - and donate it to "pools and libraries in impoverished neighborhoods."

The $28,000 interest estimate was confirmed by Pension Board Executive Director Fran Bielli. One nagging (and expensive) aspect of DROP was the city's obligation to pay 4.5 percent interest on pension money, even when prevailing market rates were much lower.

Donatucci told me he plans to make four annual donations of $7,500, which actually amounts to $30,000. Donatucci is putting a dollar figure on his contrition.

Tasco remains arrogant, defiant, sickeningly self-justifying.

In reporting her situation - she took the DROP money and then returned to work - this paper engaged in a bit of ridicule, imagining how she could spend the $478,057. She complained, said it was racist because Donatucci didn't get the same bashing.

When people play the race card, you know they are out of good arguments. Tasco could have just as easily claimed her treatment was sexist.

Maid Marian doesn't like the ridicule. Poor baby. She better get used to it.

Before the DROP scam ignited, she was the front-runner for the presidency of Council, a post that would have capped her career of public service (marred by recent public plunder). DROP cost her the presidency, most political observers believe.

She wants respect but forgets r-e-s-p-e-c-t must be e-a-r-n-e-d.

Now, she's being ridiculed. If she doesn't like it, she can resign. Or give the money back. Or at least some portion of it, as Donatucci did.

Poor baby.


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

www.philly.com/Byko.

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