This week was a complete hot mess in Philly politics.
As the summer heat climbed, the ethics of some of our notable elected officials dropped.
Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Kathleen Kane finally resigned after being convicted on perjury charges.
City Controller Alan Butkovitz accused former Mayor Michael Nutter and his staff of misusing $380,000 of Philadelphia Marathon proceeds as a “slush fund.”
And then here comes District Attorney Seth Williams finally coming clean that he’s received $160,000 in gifts during his tenure in office.
Some of the most excessive things he’s accepted were a $3,000 trip to Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic, a $300 iPad, a $2,700 couch, $1,000 in Key West airfare, $2,930 in Phillies and 76ers tickets, $1,500 for two trips to Atlantic City, and $1,500 in Visa gift cards.
These gifts came from some powerful names in the city including Gayborhood bar Woody’s co-owner, Bill Weiss. It should be noted that Weiss’ brother and fellow bar co-owner Michael Weiss was convicted of tax fraud in 2010 and later went on to be appointed to the Democratic executive committee of the city’s eighth ward. Translation: money and politics are a messy business in this city.
Because Seth has previously omitted this information in prior filings, he’s expected to face civil financial penalties with the state Ethics Commission and the Philadelphia Board of Ethics. In other words, our district attorney has a problem with accountability and transparency -- something his office is supposed to be the standard of prosecuting on behalf of.
This is a serious setback to an already disappointing re-election campaign from the city’s first Black district attorney. Every season, it seems to be another headline about his personal incompetence rather than the cases he’s advancing. Whether it was his decision to keep Kane’s former Porngate-connected employees on his staff or having his tires allegedly slashed by an ex -- Williams has stayed in the news for the wrong reasons.
Last year, the FBI and the IRS, working with the support of a federal grand jury, began examining his personal and political finances. With this new revelation of him not reporting financial gifts since 2010 -- speculation could possibly grow.
Which is all the more reason why I would suggest that Seth Williams don’t run for re-election.
It’s clear that the amount of public shame that has been placed over the D.A.’s office won’t let up anytime soon. Everyone knows a Philly election is filled with drama, suspense and just plain cattiness. Seeing Williams run in 2017 won’t be anything less than a circus and an unbearable embarrassment to the political process in general.
If there was ever a time I would sincerely urge anyone to duck for cover from the mass scrutiny that will erupt for them -- Williams would be that person.
I predict that as the countdown to the D.A. election runs continues, there will only be more ridiculous mishaps that will further distract taxpayers from taking the city’s justice system seriously. And for that reason alone, it’s even more important that we start considering a replacement.
Spare yourself the public humiliation, don’t run for re-election Seth.