Help wanted? City controller, primary foe disagree on job conversation

Brett Mandel recalls the talk, but denies asking for a job.
Brett Mandel recalls the talk, but denies asking for a job.
Posted: April 19, 2013

ANYONE WHO follows local politics knows Brett Mandel has wanted City Controller Alan Butkovitz's job since at least 2009, when he failed to defeat Butkovitz's bid for a second term.

But did Mandel ask Butkovitz for a job last year as a way of eventually winning the post?

Like many things in Philly politics, it depends on who you ask.

Everyone involved agrees that Butkovitz met in February 2012 with state Sen. Larry Farnese, seeking his political support.

Farnese heads Center City's 8th Ward, where Mandel is a committeeman. Farnese and Mandel have supported one another in past campaigns. Farnese agreed to set up a meeting at his law firm.

Butkovitz and his political consultant, Maurice Floyd, remember two scenarios proposed by Mandel as Farnese played host.

Butkovitz said Mandel told him to not seek a third term if he planned to run for mayor in 2015. Mandel offered to support Butkovitz for mayor in return for support in the controller's race.

Butkovitz said he flatly rejected that deal.

Mandel then offered to stay out of the 2013 Democratic primary for controller if he was hired as deputy city controller, Butkovitz said

Mandel wanted to be "lined up for the succession" if Butkovitz resigned to run for mayor, he said.

The city charter allows the mayor to appoint a deputy controller to fill a vacancy.

Butkovitz said he rejected that political deal as well.

Mandel, however, has an alternate recollection of the meeting.

He recalls telling Butkovitz to not seek another term as controller if he planned to run for mayor, but denies offering to swap support in campaigns.

Mandel also recalls talking about a deputy city controller job but denies asking for it.

He added: "There was no way Alan could guarantee me anything" about being appointed as acting controller by the mayor.

"It's preposterous to think that after being so critical of this controller's office that I could tuck my tail between my legs and say, let me come to work for you for some half-promise down the road," Mandel said.

Mandel and Farnese say they can't remember who first brought up the idea of Mandel becoming a deputy city controller.

Farnese doubts that it was Mandel, since the mayor's appointment for an acting controller would likely be influenced by the city's Democratic ward leaders.

"Brett's not stupid," Farnese said. "Why would a guy who has bucked the system the entire time get that nod?"

This was not the first meeting Farnese set up for Mandel. Former Sheriff Barbara Deeley said she met with Farnese in early 2011 after taking over the office.

Farnese said he suggested a meeting with Mandel when Deeley spoke of getting the troubled office's finances in order.

Deeley said Mandel came in asking for a $150,000 salary - more than she made as sheriff - and wanted her to hire two people to be his assistants.

Mandel said he did suggest that salary but denies asking for the two additional staffers. In the end, no job offer was made and he had no interest in working for Deeley, Mandel said.

Pittsburgh Joe? Uh, no

Former U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies of Montgomery County, appearing on 6ABC's "Inside Story" Sunday, said sources told her former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, of Delaware County, had moved to Pittsburgh for a teaching job, registered to vote there and could be setting himself up as the lone Democratic candidate for governor next year from western Pennsylvania.

Sestak, who lost the 2010 U.S. Senate race to Pat Toomey, says he has been registered in Delaware County since 1970 and still lives there. He spends two days a week in Pittsburgh to teach at Carnegie Mellon University.

"I'm a Delco boy, through and through," Sestak told us.

Asked if he is thinking about running for governor, Sestak said: "I'm just making sure what I do is the right decision."

Margolies was equally vague on "Inside Story" about her interest in running for her old seat, now that U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz says she will not seek another term and will instead run for governor in 2014.

Early ads hit Corbett

The 2014 general election for governor is more than 18 months away but a pair of nonprofit groups are already running television ads in parts of Pennsylvania, slamming Gov. Corbett on his record as he seeks a second term.

The two groups say they are not working together, even though the content of their ads are remarkably similar. Both accuse Corbett of favoring tax cuts for wealthy corporate campaign contributors over spending for education, all while taking gifts from well-connected pals.

The two groups refused to say who funded the ads.

We have a few guesses.

Pennsylvanians for Accountability registered in Pittsburgh in September, listing as its officials two people who served as directors of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the union for public school teachers, and a member of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare PA, a union for hospital and nursing-home employees.

SEIU Healthcare PA sued Corbett on April 1, trying to stop his plan to close or consolidate 26 of 60 state health-care centers.

Real American Values registered in Blue Bell on April 1, listing Bob Wolper as the man in charge. Wolper has long been a spokesman and lobbyist for the union that represents state liquor-store employees, who oppose Corbett's plan for privatization.


Email: brennac@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5973

On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN

Blog: ph.ly/phillyclout

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