City Councilwomen held a news conference Thursday morning calling for the resignation of three city prosecutors - Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo and Pat Blessington - who sent “demeaning, misogynistic and racist emails sent by state-owned computers” while still remaining employed by District Attorney Seth Williams.
The Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) was present with the elected officials as a group that helped to organize the effort.
“They need to go ... They should be terminated,” said Councilwoman Cindy Bass. “These emails show their judgment and how they are not suited to make decisions in that office.”
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This is the first time City Council members have spoken publicly about the emails released by Attorney General Kathleen Kane, which exposed that current city prosecutors, while employed at the Attorney General's office, shared and received pornographic, racist and sexist content on their government accounts.
"They used government computers to receive and send pornography on taxpayers’ dollars … We will not be benign in going on the record to denounce their actions,” said Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell.
NOW president Nina Ahmad spoke on behalf of non-elected women who also felt that Williams' proposed sensitivity training as a response to the prosecutors’ actions was a “slap on the wrist.”
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“We don’t know exactly what sensitivity training the men received … The DA’s office has not responded to our satisfaction … We sent out a press release. Their response was unacceptable,” Ahmad said. “We are now launching a petition to call for the resignations because there needs to be real consequences.”
“This has been an ole boys’ network that has allowed for these actions that offend women of color, LGBT, and others at alarming rates,” said Councilwoman Maria Quiñones- Sánchez. “We want accountability and integrity back in the DA’s office."
The press conference speakers were predominately women, with only one male member of NOW present at the panel. When asked why no City Councilmen were visibly supporting them, various elected officials defended their absence.
“This is a women’s issue – we wanted to take the lead as councilwomen,” said Blackwell.
“Their absence shouldn’t mean they don’t care…let’s not be too quick to assume,” said Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown.
After the press conference, D.A. Seth Williams released a statement responding to the concerns raised by NOW.
"While I appreciate and understand the concerns of the city councilwomen and NOW over the content of the emails, I have reviewed this matter and the individuals involved have been disciplined," D.A. Seth Williams said in a statement.
"I have reached out to NOW on multiple occasions to sit down and discuss this matter in greater detail and to date they have refused. I agree that the material in question was offensive, but I would remind everyone involved that this behavior never took place in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. My office has remained fully committed to doing the important work of making Philadelphia streets safer every day."