City Hall says Inquirer op-ed criticizing deputy mayors’ pay was riddled with errors
City Hall is spitting mad over a recent op-ed published in the Philadelphia Inquirer claiming that all of Mayor Michael Nutter’s deputy mayors are illegally drawing salaries prohibited by the city charter.
“Mr. Wolfe is very, very far from the facts,” said Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald of the op-ed by Republican ward leader Matthew Wolfe, based in West Philadelphia.
In the piece, published Sunday, Wolfe named Managing Director Richard Negrin, Director of Commerce Alan Greenberger and Health Commissioner Dr. Donald Schwarz as violating the Philadelphia charter by having two government jobs. Each is a deputy mayor in Nutter’s administration in addition to the aforementioned titles.
Wolfe said he wrote the editorial after 13 assistant recreation leaders at the city’s Parks and Recreation department lost their jobs after it was revealed they also held separate full-time jobs for government entities, and were thus “double-dipping” by collecting two pensions in violation of the city charter.
“It hit me when they kicked around these little people who are just trying to make enough money to send their kid to a Catholic school or something like that, and humiliated them and fired them for something going on throughout the entire term of the Nutter administration,” Wolfe said. “It seemed like the height of hypocrisy.”
But McDonald said that Wolfe misunderstood the charter.
“The three deputy mayors mentioned have a range of duties and titles, but they are paid for one job,” McDonald wrote in an email. “Going back at least to 1969, city solicitors have concluded that this is no violation of the Home Rule Charter by those holding multiple positions in city government as long as they are drawing a single salary.”
Wolfe contested that opinion, saying a solicitor’s opinion was not a “legal authority.”
“That’s not what the city charter says,” Wolfe said. “It should not surprise anybody that a city solicitor who was appointed by the mayor and is receiving a salary in excess of the salary legally given to her by the law will say that so she can continue receiving a higher salary and doing what the mayor appointed her to that position wants her to do.”
Philadelphia charter section 8-301 states that no one working for the city may hold another position of profit with a governmental entity.
Wolfe’s piece also said that salaries are paid to the deputy mayors and other top city officials in excess of the maximum salary for those positions listed in the city charter.
For example, according to charter section 20-303, the salary of the Philadelphia police commissioner must not exceed $120,000. According to a report on the city’s highest paid employees in Philadelphia Magazine published in June, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey receives a salary of $261,375.
But the “maximum salary” charter code also states that it is “subject to the cost of living provisions” McDonald pointed out.
“Those numbers go back to the late 1980s,” he wrote.
Philadelphia City Council set an increased salary range for these city positions based on cost-of-living increases, McDonald said.
“Wolfe is deeply in error, and what’s disappointing is that the Inquirer editorial page didn’t see fit to check any of the facts in this screed before running it,” McDonald wrote.
Wolfe acknowledged that the cost-of-living provision argument may mean the salaries are not excessive.
“If it takes the managing director from $135,000 to $171,000, then they’re right,” he said.
Follow Sam Newhouse on Twitter: @scnewhouse
Follow Metro Philadelphia on Twitter: @metrophilly
Follow Metro Philadelphia on Facebook: Metro Philadelphia