"What's black and white and read all over?"

Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Posted 5:55 PM by

Guilty Philly councilman can stay in office

That isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card convicted Philadelphia City Councilman Rick Mariano is holding, so why can he still hold public office?He's been found guilty of accepting bribes and may have threatened to jump from the top of City Hall in an O.J.-like standoff, but convicted Philly Councilman Rick Mariano is still in office.

Mariano, convicted last week of 18 counts of fraud, bribery and money-laundering, remains in a federal detention center pending a psychiatric evaluation slated for Wednesday. The judge could consider bail after that.

"It is his intention to stay until sentencing, and it is his intention to attend council sessions," Mariano's chief of staff, Jay McCalla, said Monday.

During Mariano's trial, Vincent DiPentino, a real estate agent, acknowledged he helped Erie Steel Ltd. disguise a $10,900 payment toward Mariano's personal credit-card debt; in exchange, he sought Mariano's help obtaining city properties.

In exchange for laundering another payment from Erie Steel toward Mariano's credit-card bill, councilman Joseph Pellecchia sought the councilman's help with city agencies and the Philadelphia School District, including assistance in obtaining a $225,000 consulting contract with the district, prosecutors said.

Yet, Mariano can still stay in office and collect his $102,000 public salary because the state ban on felons in elected office doesn't kick in until after his July 6 sentencing, according to an opinion issued by acting city solicitor Romulo L. Diaz Jr.

It was one of Diaz's last acts in that role, before ceding the position to Pedro Ramos.

Mariano chairs council's Licenses and Inspections Committee and also serves as a member of its Ethics Committee. On Tuesday, McCalla wrote to Council President Anna C. Verna that Mariano would be dropping all his committee assignments.

That cannot and should not be enough.

Mayor John "I've been bugged, not indicted" Street called on Mariano to resign minutes after his conviction Friday. But most council members said they would not support a nonbinding resolution asking him to step down.

Councilman Frank DiCicco suggested council should adopt a policy to stop paying members who have been convicted of crimes. Having a convicted felon on the council is "basically a slap in the face to the citizens of Philadelphia," DiCicco said.

Maybe one of the state lawmakers in Philly should consider changing the state law too.


This Week's Rants | The Daily Rant Archives

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.