If Philly's Sheriff's Office can't reform, maybe it should die

Tuesday, 14 November 2017, 02:26:32 PM. A historically troubled office should prompt the city's civic reformers to pressure Mayor Kenney and City Council to pose a charter change question to voters to abolish the office.
Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams has denied sexual harassment allegations filed last week with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but the charges have flipped another light switch on this historically troubled office and prompts questions about whether it has made enough reforms to justify its continued existence. The Sheriff’s Office provides court security, including transporting prisoners, and sells foreclosed and delinquent properties.  For years, some have argued that those responsibilities could be farmed out to more appropriate and professional agencies. In fact, more than 30 years ago, civic reformers wanted to do just that and disband the office. At the time, Sheriff Ralph Passio III, elected in 1983, had built a reputation for favoritism and incompetence. Prisoners escaped custody, staff lost stun guns and couldn’t account for petty cash. The office gave two speculators special access to pending land sales records, which they used to rip off vulnerable property owners. The movement to disband the office was quickly forgotten when John Green was elected sheriff in 1987 on promises to reform the office. But within a couple of years, the office was back to its old ways. A robust investigation by City Controller Alan Butkovitz led to a federal investigation. Green is now awaiting trial on federal charges that between 2002 and 2010 he gave a political consultant and campaign donor control over the office’s contracts in exchange for bribes. In 2013, the...Read more
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