Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Our honorable mayor of Philly, John Street, has been under investigation for quite some time now by the FBI. He is up to his neck in bad publicity. Especially when it comes to him funneling business to his brother. You would think that given this intrusive oversight of his activities down to the microscopic level would give him the impetus to be reserved in his activities. No, apparently not.
- CITY SOLICITOR Romulo Diaz says there were no conflict of interest issues under city law when the Street administration gave a no-bid contract for vending services at Live 8 to a company that subcontracted with Milton Street, Mayor Street's brother.
But City Councilman Michael Nutter, who has spearheaded ethics reform in city government, said city managers need to exercise better judgment and probably need stronger laws.
'It's inescapable that the mayor's brother had a financial interest in this contract,' Nutter said. 'It certainly sounds inappropriate what has happened and in the final analysis it just may be.'
Diaz cited the current law that only focuses on contracts between the city and a contractor and the potential for conflicts of interest flowing from those relationships and not subcontractors.
Further, Diaz said, 'The mayor didn't make a decision to have anyone on this contract. I negotiated this contract.'
Diaz said the mayor was not required to disclose a relationship or remove himself from decision-making on the contract 'because there was no direct dealing between the city and Milton Street.'
- Nutter said it's a "lawyer's exercise and a tortured splitting of hairs" to require a public official to remove himself from awarding a contract directly to a relative but to allow it to happen when a contractor in turn hires the public official's relative as a subcontractor.
Asked about a hypothetical situation where a city official purposely structures a deal to benefit a relative by using a once-removed subcontractor, Diaz said the question was "unfair in its implication."
- In an interview with the Daily News, the mayor defended his brother's partnership.
"I don't think it's a problem. I don't know his deal. I don't get involved in his business, but I will tell you if my brother Milton can't vend then he can't work," Street said. "It's a free country and he's entitled to try to create opportunities for himself just like anyone else."
Nutter said the current law needs to be read "for both its intention and spirit."
"At the end of the day this is about good judgment," Nutter said. "To argue that someone won't be able to work is nonsense. There are a host of people working in this city without any contractural relationship with the city."