No Love: Rizzo DROP Case Going to PA Supreme Court
On popularity alone, Councilman Frank Rizzo, Jr. doesn’t seem to be going away. At least, that’s what a McLaughlin & Associates poll said when it found 57 percent of the city good with the name-branded spawn of Frank Rizzo, Sr. But that’s not going to stop many-a-city Republican from trying to get him kicked off the ballot on the basis of his enrollment in DROP. Today, they might have gotten a step closer to doing just that.
The case of Rizzo and Tasco, both enrolled in DROP and running for re-election, is being transferred to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, it was revealed today. Ward leader Matt Wolfe, who filed the original suit and the appeal, noted to WHYY that this was bound to happen, anyway. Though the transfer shows the case is being sped up.
When the case will be heard, we don’t yet know. Calls to the Supreme Court for details have so far gone unanswered.
After some passive-aggressive letter sharing last week, Council candidate Malcolm Lazin obtained Rizzo’s DROP documents on March 30 via Pennsylvania’s Right-To-Know law. He had openly wondered if Rizzo understood the language of the documents he signed on September 24, 2007, which read, “I understand that my separation from City service must be no later than four (4) years after my DROP entry date.” Lazin has called upon District Attorney Seth Williams to investigate statements Rizzo made “about his intention to retire when he made DROP representations to the Board of Pensions and Retirement.” Rizzo, like all DROP-enrolled members, also signed where it reads, “I understand that there are no exceptions to this rule.” The documents were viewed by PhillyNow, and Rizzo’s weird handwriting is noted.
Signing onto DROP in 2007 was, in essence, a statement of declared retirement in four years, says Lazin. But an investigation (he hasn’t heard back from DA Williams) may prove difficult. “They are difficult cases to make,” he says, “because you need to be able to prove that at the time the person made the false statement, they knowingly engaged in either a false statement or a fraudulent statement. It’s hard for the prosecution to prove what their intention was at that prior moment in time.
“But in this particular case, Rizzo has essentially testified against himself, in terms of the fact that both during the campaign and after the campaign when he was making the DROP application, he had no intention to retire but rather to take the money and then run once again for re-election.”
This latest setback comes among a long line of them for Rizzo. After getting shut out of a Republican City Committee endorsement, the son of a mayor was given the metaphorical finger by the Fraternal Order of Police, who decided they wouldn’t throw their muscle behind him for the first time in his 16-year career in city politics. He’s been the bane of most every Republican running for City Council At-Large and leaders alike, with Wolfe first filing his challenge on March 9 (though announcing on February 28). After Rizzo was allowed to stay on the ballot, Wolfe appealed the case in late March.
Council At-Large candidate Al Taubenberger also conducted a weird push-poll this week (Questions: will you support a candidate who “will be entitled to a second pension paid for by the taxpayers?”; one who’s serving in the state House while running; or one who worked as an attorney “to keep a strip club operating in a residential neighborhood?”; they respectfully pertain to Rizzo, O’Brian and Oh), which found many Republican voters wouldn’t favor Rizzo, or anyone else — other than Taubenberger! — on the basis of these stats, alone. Pesky name recognition.