Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Lots of media flurry over yesterday's news that a bunch of verdicts were returned in the massive city corruption case that has been dragging on for months. Just a run-down here:
  • Yesterday's initial news: former treasurer and two high-level bank officials convicted, amid a wash of smaller findings.
  • Today's Inquirer recap of the same story, with more details. There are dozens of charges against some defendants, with varying verdicts.
  • Here's a handy timeline of the investigation and case, for those finding it hard to keep up.
  • The Daily News agrees that the verdicts vindicate the probe.
    Zack Stalberg of the watchdog group the Committee of Seventy noted that convictions of Holck and Umbrell, in particular, would "send a little chill through the leadership of the business community and hopefully remind them that being a co-conspirator in pay-to-play has its consequences."
    A second piece there theorizes that Mayor Street will not get off the hook in this probe, finding it more difficult to do his job from here on out (even if the investigations continue to skirt him). A third piece opines that the feds got both more and less than they hoped.
  • Columnist Tom Ferrick weighs in on the outcomes thus far.
    Let me say a word about these jurors. They deliberated for 19 days and, for a while, it looked to us outsiders as if they were deadlocked and in disarray.

    After looking through the charge sheets, though, I can offer a different theory. This jury did its job. It deliberated methodically and well.
  • DN columnist Jill Porter applauds the convictions, but expresses pessimism about whether the pay-to-play culture is capable of change.

  • Commerce Bank is worried about fallout from the fraud conviction of two of its officers. (Not to worry: they still have more civilized hours than any other bank in town.)
  • Mayor Street expresses sadness over the conviction of his former colleague.
  • John Baer wonders whether Pat Meehan, the prosecutor in all of this, will make hay of his success.
    As one GOP insider puts it, "Just the fact Meehan lifted the curtain on 'pay-to-play' is a marketable political asset."
  • And finally, given the failure of any real ethics legislation to pass since this mess got started, I recommend this piece pointing out that we can't wait for the FBI to clean up our government.
    A federal grand jury probe is the nuclear weapon of the war on corruption. It takes forever, costs a fortune, paralyzes the government, and splashes dozens of innocent people with the taint of scandal as they’re called before the grand jury about matters that may be trivial.
    . . .
    What we really need is a mechanism that makes more frequent, smaller corrections on the behavior of public officials, and rules that push them in the right direction all the time.
    . . .
    If it ticks you off to see the city treasurer accept a free deck, $10,000 and a Super Bowl trip from guys getting city business, and you want a change, you’re going to have to go to City Hall and say it. If you yawn, and stay home, chances are we’ll get more of the same.
    Amen. (Now might be a good time to suggest that the reform-minded consider activating their neighbors -- look into Neighborhood Networks if you want to be part of the force for change.)
Well, that's a new record for post length, but at least you can peruse it or pass it by in one fell swoop!

the remaining charges were declared in mistrial by the judge, who also said that the evidence indicated a need for ethics reform... (ya think?)


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