Election Day study stirring suspicion

Posted: February 18, 2013

The panel established by Mayor Nutter to study the city's Election Day operations is getting a cold shoulder from current city commissioners, who initially thought it would be a collaborative effort but now suspect the panel is looking for reasons to abolish the Commissioners' Office rather than improve it.

Now the mayor's panel, headed by Managing Director Richard Negrin, is reaching out for advice to longtime Commissioner Marge Tartaglione, who ran the city's election operations for more than 30 years. They also reached out to her daughter Renee, who was Marge's top deputy until losing the job in 2010 for violating the City Charter's ban on partisan political activity by unelected employees.

"We have reached out to a number of folks, both past and present employees . . . who have experience dealing with Election Day," confirmed Brian Abernathy, Negrin's chief of staff.

Renee acknowledged "some communication going back and forth," but her always-feisty mother, defeated in 2011 in her bid for a 10th term, said she had no intention of helping Nutter do anything.

"Why is he reaching out to me when he said I wasn't qualified to run for office?" asks Marge, who turns 80 at the end of the month. "God bless 'em, because they don't know the first thing about elections." - Bob Warner

Recall Blondell?

The disclosure that City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown used campaign money for personal expenses, including repayment of a $3,300 loan from Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr. - son of the congressman - spurred a prompt reaction from Mike Bannan, 55, of Center City.

Bannan, a registered Democrat since he moved to the city from West Chester three years ago, started the website www.recallblondellreynoldsbrown.org, linked to a city Ethics Board settlement documenting Brown's troubled campaign finances. He publicized the site with comments on Philly.com and began collecting e-mail addresses.

As of Friday, 277 people had signed.

"The one thing we all agree on is we want to see Blondell Reynolds Brown gone," said Bannan, the owner of a court reporting and video business.

Brown says she's had "overwhelming support" from friends, colleagues, and voters, and she's not going anywhere. "I have every intention of continuing to serve the citizens of Philadelphia as a member of City Council, as I have for the past 12 years," she replied via e-mail.

Veteran elections lawyer Gregory Harvey, a leader of the Rizzo Recall movement in 1976, says the councilwoman needn't worry, at least about a recall. The state Supreme Court pulled the plug on the Rizzo recall, ruling that it violated the state Constitution, and the court hasn't changed its mind.

- Bob Warner

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