Tasco, in an absurdist procedure actually approved by city lawyers, had "retired" the previous Friday with the intention of returning to be sworn in to a new term on Monday. This allowed her to collect a nearly half-million-dollar retirement payout without retiring.
For taxpayers, Tasco's maneuver didn't merely add insult to injury. It also heaped on a helping of outrage, painted it with a thick coat of contempt, and erected a tower of travesty on top.
The original sin here is DROP (for Deferred Retirement Option Plan), an ill-conceived incentive offered to city employees. In exchange for agreeing to retire within four years, participants are allowed to begin accruing pension benefits while still on the job. The payments go to accounts that generate interest at fantasy rates before they are released in lump sums upon retirement.
What this possibly could have done for the city and its taxpayers, if anything, is lost to history and logic. What it did to them is as much as $1 billion in damage, according to a comprehensive analysis by the City Paper.
But Philadelphia hasn't met many bad ideas it can't make worse. And so DROP was further perverted by the participation - inevitable in retrospect - of our grabby elected officials. And when those officials saw what they had done and that it was good (for them), they went even further. They declared that they could collect the extra retirement money without so much as retiring - thereby ridding the perk of its last tiny downside and completing its transformation from excessive fringe benefit to thinly legalized embezzlement.
And they all would have gotten away with it if not for the public uproar, which is what makes Tasco so unusual. While Tasco was one of six Council members enrolled in DROP as elections approached, she was one of only two - along with Frank Rizzo - who went ahead with plans to seek reelection and a retirement payout. And Tasco alone was reelected (along with one other much more obscure DROP-taking officeholder, Register of Wills Ron Donatucci).
Perhaps all Tasco lost, other than untold public trust and esteem, was the Council presidency she was once thought to be in line for. No doubt she will be somewhat consoled by her $478,057 bonus, her $120,000 salary, and the $109,000 yearly pension benefit she stands to collect when she really retires.
Still struggling to understand how the councilwoman could so cavalierly amass vast sums of our money? Consider what she told the Daily News this week: that it's not our money at all. Or, as she put it, "That's my money!"
If Tasco sees our money as her money, of course she feels entitled to take as much of it as she can. Indeed, by that reasoning, we got off easy: She's letting us keep some of her money, and we only had to get by without her for a weekend.