Singer gives forum to election beefs

Posted: June 06, 2014

DEMOCRATIC and Republican committee people who won posts in the primary election 17 days ago will soon elect ward leaders, but a few protesters want to call a halt until their complaints are investigated.

The aggrieved spoke of primary polling-place harassment and electioneering during a hearing yesterday called by City Commissioner Stephanie Singer.

This Airing of Grievances - sadly, with no Seinfeldian feats of strength or Festivus pole - stirred a dozen people to march from the City Hall courtroom, where Singer sat as judge, to District Attorney Seth Williams' office across the street. Williams was not present, according to a receptionist who took a message.

Singer, a Democrat, had made her own stop in the District Attorney's Office on Tuesday, trying to file a criminal complaint against City Commission chairman Anthony Clark, another Democrat, and vice chairman Al Schmidt, a Republican.

She had brought company, inviting reporters to interview her in the D.A.'s office lobby.

That didn't go over so well.

Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for D.A. Seth Williams, said it was "completely inappropriate" for Singer to call a news conference in the lobby and to notify reporters but not Williams.

Jamerson said Singer could have met with Williams to discuss any election-related matter if she had just made an appointment.

"As an elected city commissioner, she knows the proper procedures and protocols," Jamerson said. "What she did was all sorts of wrong and mystifying."

It gets weirder.

Joe Driscoll, who coordinates social media for Singer's re-election campaign, called the police when told that a local TV cameraman could not film an interview with Singer in the lobby. Driscoll, who also wanted to file a complaint, was told he had to leave the building.

A cop soon arrived.

"Even though I thought I had the grounds to stay there, I didn't file a complaint," Driscoll said.

Singer's gripe against her colleagues - who ousted her as chairman of their board 11 months into that job in 2012 - is that they sent out too-early election certificates for winners of Democratic and Republican committee posts.

Schmidt says the commission acted on this as it has for years.

Many of the people testifying at yesterday's Airing of Grievances had trouble sticking to three simple rules: speak for just three minutes, be specific about what happened during the primary and don't mention anyone's name.

Karen Brown, a Democratic committeewoman who ran for mayor as a Republican in 2011 and is trying to re-enter Democratic politics, complained that one of the young people she pressed to run for committee lost to a man who died two weeks before the primary.

"We all went to the funeral, so we knew the guy was dead," Brown said, drawing loud laughter in the courtroom.

Tim Dowling, the acting supervisor of elections, said the commission received no notice that a candidate had died. It takes a court order to remove a name from the printed ballot.

There's history here: Philly voters re-elected City Councilman Francis O'Donnell in 1975 and U.S. Rep. Bill Barrett in 1976. Both men died before their last elections were held.

Backup Singer

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics fined Singer $500 yesterday for violating the city code's ban on taking official action that impacts a personal financial interest.

The board, in a settlement agreement, said Singer asked a commission employee to pull together voting data after the 2013 primary election.

"In order to create the data sets, the employee had to do work he would not have otherwise done," the agreement said.

Singer then posted that information on two websites she controls - CampaignScientific.com and Philadems.org.

The Philadems.org page said: "Stephanie Singer maintains this website as a service to the community. To support Singer's political work, please donate to her campaign committee."

That included a link to make a donation to Singer's campaign.

The board could have fined Singer $1,300 but waived some of the penalties because she cooperated with the investigation.

The board last week seized the computer of Singer aide Tracey Gordon, who was placed on unpaid leave for 90 days. Gordon apparently is being investigated for improper political activity.

Quotable:

"Why do you think I'm running for mayor? That's the only position to get anything done by the city."

- City Councilman Jim Kenney, in a Sunday Inquirer column by Clark DeLeon, expressing frustration with a dangerous Old City sidewalk situation.

Kenney clarified this week that he told DeLeon he wants to run for mayor but did not make a formal announcement of candidacy, which would require him to resign from his Council post.

"I would not necessarily declare to someone in Revolutionary War costume," he said of DeLeon, who dresses the part to guide tours of the historic area.


Email: brennac@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5973

On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN

Blog: ph.ly/phillyclout

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