Clout: City Commission Fights ‘fact-finding Team’

Philadelphia Daily News

THE CITY COMMISSION, which oversees elections in Philadelphia, is refusing to cooperate with a “fact-finding team” appointed by Mayor Nutter last month to examine problems in the Nov. 6 general election.

Nutter’s support in 2008 for eliminating “row offices” like the City Commission seems to have helped spark suspicions about his intentions now.

The three elected commissioners sent Nutter a letter last week, citing “growing concerns about the integrity of the fact-finding process and the value of its eventual recommendations.”

They complained about being shut out of the process. So now they will boycott the effort.

Al Schmidt, vice chairman of the commission, has three concerns about Nutter’s team, which is examining why 27,000 voters had to use provisional ballots in the November election.

Five of the six team members work for Nutter, including city Managing Director Rich Negrin.

None of the members has experience running elections in the city.

And there are no Republicans, noted Schmidt, the lone Republican on the City Commission.

Asked if he was suspicious that Nutter would use Election Day problems to push for eliminating the commission, Schmidt said it was “certainly curious” that the mayor supported that before.

“We don’t know his mind,” Schmidt said of Nutter. “We do know that was a position he held some years ago.”

Nutter, in the first year as mayor, floated the idea of changing the city’s Home Rule Charter to eliminate row offices such as the commission, the Register of Wills and the Sheriff’s Office.

Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said Everett Gillison, the mayor’s chief of staff, will speak with the commission’s chairman, Anthony Clark, about the letter. McDonald said Nutter wants to be sure his team’s role is not “mischaracterized.”

“The task force was called to deal with issues that arose on Election Day,” McDonald said. “That is the focus of its work. And that’s all the focus is.”

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