Clout: City knows how to make work

Posted: January 13, 2012

IN THIS troubled economy, it's nice to know there is a place - City Hall - where the end of one job leads not to unemployment but to a new opportunity.

Last week, Mayor Nutter added 13 employees to his administration, all of them formerly employed by five of the six City Council members who just left office.

Those new employees, with a combined salary of $774,695, arrived while Nutter's administration was circulating a document showing that budget cuts of $12.4 million might be on the horizon.

Managing Director Rich Negrin said the employees were told they would have at least 18 months in their new jobs, though he quickly walked that back a bit.

"I'm not sure you would say that anybody's job is safe in this environment," Negrin said.

So how did this baker's dozen of bureaucrats get so lucky?

We noticed that five of them are members of the Democratic City Committee; one recently ran for Democratic ward leader in South Philly; one is a member of the Republican City Committee, and four more show up in campaign-finance reports for doing political work for former bosses.

"That plays no role," Negrin said of politics.

"I think you'd be hard-pressed to find somebody in City Council who hasn't had some role in city politics."

Negrin said Nutter, who served four terms in Council before becoming mayor, sent him a list of names to be considered.

"I think the mayor saw this as an opportunity to retain some of the talent who would have gone elsewhere," he said.

Twelve of the 13 employees will keep the same salaries they had in their Council jobs as they take posts in Negrin's office or departments that handle law, commerce, health, revenue and parks and recreation.

John Cerrone, who was chief of staff to Councilman Jack Kelly, took a pay cut of $5,205 and will now make $90,000 in the Department of Parks & Recreation.

Cerrone's salary, the largest of the 13 employees', makes him one of the best-paid employees in his new department.

Negrin said that it will be up to the leaders of each department to ensure that the new employees have a job that "warrants the salary" they are paid.

Senate-ad 'arms race'

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. expects a rough road in his bid this year for a second six-year term.

Expensive, too.

Tom Smith, a little-known coal-company owner from Armstrong County, northeast of Pittsburgh, last week announced that he has invested $4.25 million of his own money to win the Republican senatorial primary election. Smith says he has $4.4 million on hand.

That reverberated loudly through the crowded GOP field, where none of the nine other candidates has that kind of cash.

Could Casey be chasing Smith in the fundraising race? Casey, who had $3.75 million as of Sept. 30, this week said he expects to have about $4 million when the next campaign-finance reports are filed on Jan. 31.

Candidate cash could pale in comparison to the money Republicans and Democrats will spend, based on the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations and nonprofit entities to plow money into political commercials.

"I think in this case you're going to see in the 2012 context what I would call a negative-ad arms race," Casey said. "You're going to have both sides with big groups providing a lot of money to do this."

Dems in disarray

What is it with the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and the state Attorney General's Office?

The Democrats have never held the elected office. And the Republicans seems poised to maintain control as the state's top prosecutor.

Consider two events this week:

First Gov. Corbett's plans to support Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed for the office prompted state Sen. John Rafferty, of Montgomery County, to suspend his campaign. Barring the entry of another Republican into the primary, the GOP can now unite behind Freed.

On the Democratic side, the Associated Press reported that former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy passed the bar exam in Minnesota rather than Pennsylvania, though he was later admitted to this state's bar. The former U.S. Army prosecutor has no courtroom experience in this state.

Local attorney Dan McCaffery's campaign pounced on the news. So did the Republicans.

Now consider how the Democrats faced off last week.

Just as McCaffery was about to accept the public endorsement of a bunch of local high-profile Democrats, the third candidate in the Democratic primary, Kathleen Kane, issued a statement that she had $2 million in the bank.

Kane, a former Lackawanna County assistant D.A., refused to respond to the obvious follow-up question: How much of that money comes from her and her husband, who runs a successful trucking business in northeastern Pennsylvania?

So Murphy's legal experience is in question; McCaffery can be upstaged by cash, and Kane's campaign appears opportunistic and amateurish at the same time.

Quotable:

"I think the Sunday-morning television programs are vacuous. I've been on enough of them to be a co-conspirator."

- Former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, trying to stir up attention and funding this week for his news program, "The Whole Truth," which premieres tonight on Maryland Public Television. A spokesman for WHYY in Philadelphia said the station will not air the program tonight but is in an "exploratory stage" of adding it to the schedule in the future.


Have tips? Call Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or e-mail brennac@phillynews.com.

Clout blog: www.phillyclout.com, Twitter @ChrisBrennanDN.

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