Phila. election aide suspended

Posted: May 31, 2014

A city election official who was previously fined by Philadelphia's Board of Ethics for using her office computer to engage in political activity is in hot water again with the same board - and has had her computer confiscated.

Tracey Gordon, who has been a deputy to City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, has been placed on unpaid administrative leave. According to an e-mail sent Thursday to the three commissioners by Chief Deputy Commissioner Don Garecht, Gordon was suspended without pay for 90 days pending an investigation by the Ethics Board.

The board's executive director, Shane Creamer, said that its policy was not to discuss any investigations and that, therefore, he could neither confirm nor deny Gordon was under scrutiny.

Singer, a Democrat who had been Gordon's supervisor, made several references to the Ethics Board investigation in an interview Thursday. She also confirmed that Gordon's office computer had been confiscated Wednesday afternoon by Garecht at the direction of the Ethics Board.

"I'm aware there is an investigation, but I don't know what the investigation is about," Singer said. She later added, "I have no reason to think that there is an investigation into anyone else in my office."

City Commissioner Al Schmidt said his office had complained to Singer "at least on a dozen occasions that we believe her office was engaged in prohibited political activity."

Schmidt, a Republican, declined to elaborate on those allegations. He said he was not authorized to say whether an investigation was underway.

Schmidt's complaints about Singer's office add another layer to the already contentious relationship between the two city commissioners. Along with the third commissioner, Democrat Anthony Clark, they oversee the office that runs city elections. Its employees are barred from engaging in political activity while on the job.

After the November 2012 elections, Schmidt and Clark voted to dump Singer as chair. Ever since, Singer and Schmidt have been at odds. Clark is now chair and Schmidt vice chair.

Gordon, who was not at work Thursday, declined to comment when reached on her cellphone. She said she had retained an attorney but declined to provide a name.

"It's very sensitive, and I can't make a comment," she said before ending the call.

In 2012, Gordon agreed to pay $675 in fines for reaching out too far - sharing some political views on her Facebook page in violation of the city's restrictions on political activity by employees.

In the 2012 settlement with the Ethics Board, Gordon acknowledged having used her city computer on nine occasions to access her Facebook page and express an opinion involving candidates or partisan groups.

Gordon, a community activist from Southwest Philadelphia and a former City Council candidate, has a personal Facebook page on which she lists as her job "Community Leader at Southwest Philly."

In addition to suspending Gordon, Garecht also moved Jasmine Winfield, who worked out of Singer's office, to another city commissioner's office in City Hall.

Garecht said that, although it was his discretion to move Winfield, he wasn't allowed to comment on his reasons.

Singer said she was requesting that Winfield be placed back in her office. "We do a lot of constituent service," Singer said. "This is a really busy time."

At the same time, Singer said, she was "fine" with the decision to suspend Gordon. Singer sent an e-mail Wednesday alerting Garecht and the other commissioners that she was no longer Gordon's boss.

"I am no longer her supervisor," Singer said Thursday in the interview, but that reassignment was "not because of the ethics investigation." She declined to elaborate.


cvargas@phillynews.com

215-854-5520 @InqCVargas

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