To their immense credit, Councilmen Jim Kenney and Mark Squilla did more than what other city officials under two administrations couldn't be bothered to do. They not only listened, they held a hearing last month on behalf of the workers, who weren't paid a prevailing wage on a city contract to clean up blight. The city cited the contractor, Garnett Littlepage. But the workers still weren't paid.
In attendance were many of the 40 or so ex-cons who've anxiously awaited the life-changing $188,000 owed them, and Littlepage, whose business doesn't seem to have suffered a bit. Littlepage's security company does work for several city buildings, including City Hall, where the hearing was held.
After years of being dismissed or told that they'd have to get the money from Littlepage - Mayor Nutter's spokesman, Mark McDonald, suggested they get a lawyer - an 11th hour bombshell.
Senior law department attorney Michelle Flamer said THAT after poking around a bit, she discovered that the city did in fact have the money to pay the workers.
The news shocked everyone. But this being Philly, we all looked for that silver lining. The city couldn't keep its books, but hey, at least now these guys could finally get paid.
The director of the city's Labor Standards Unit even wrote a letter to Michael McAnally at the Board of Labor Standards - which would make the final decision - requesting that the workers be paid "without further delay."
Finally, the little guys win.
And then . . . nothing. A week passed, then two. Then word came that Littlepage was appealing the city's earlier decision against him, something he had years to do. First a hearing was set for yesterday and then sometime in August.
McAnally said the postponement was at the request of attorneys for Littlepage and the city. When I asked Flamer about the postponement, she said she was denied a very brief postponement before being told that the hearing wouldn't be held until mid-August.
You know what, at this point, it doesn't matter who asked for a postponement - or why. All that matters is that these guys get paid already.
Also testifying at the hearing was Mark Zecca, a former city lawyer who went after Littlepage for not paying the workers a prevailing wage. Bottom line, he's always said, "The city owes these guys. Pay the workers and go after Littlepage. One has nothing to do with another."
When I asked several people to explain the logic here, all I got was finger pointing. Don't ask me, ask her. Don't ask us, ask them. And once again, these guys are stuck in the middle of bureaucratic bull.
Maybe if Littlepage didn't already have years to appeal the city's decisions, the delay would be understandable. Maybe if whatever issue Littlepage has with the city had any bearing on what these workers are owed, I'd suggest they be patient.
Maybe if these guys hadn't been totally screwed over by two administrations that paid lip service to looking out for ex-cons, then this ridiculousness would make sense.
But this whole situation just somersaulted from the ridiculous to the obscene.
So, what's it take, Philly? When do the little guys win?
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