A push by some Philadelphia City Council members to chastise the scandal-plagued Philadelphia Parking Authority fell apart in a Thursday session, despite public outcry over sexual harassment charges levied at former director Vince Fenerty.
Councilman David Oh had introduced a resolution in May calling for a performance audit by the city controller’s office over prior concerns about the agency’s top-heavy administration and spending.
That resolution was resurrected in the wake of the sexual harassment revelations, which led to Fenerty’s resignation Wednesday night, just ahead of the agency’s board meeting on Thursday, when he was widely expected to be terminated.
“Why would city council not pass a resolution making this request to the city controller?” Oh said. “Vince Fenerty did not act alone.”
Public speakers also lined up to lambast the agency.
“Year after year, their contributions to the school district have been declining, in spite of the fact they’ve had increases in the meter rate,” Donna Cooper, president of Public Citizens For Children and Youth said. “I call for council to vote unanimously for an audit.”
The resolution would be nonbinding, as council has no jurisdiction over the Republican-dominated state agency. But when Oh brought his legislation up for a vote, councilmembers balked at the mere suggestion that the agency ought to submit to a performance audit.
Council President Darrell Clarke repeatedly pointed out that the city controller did not need a resolution to audit the PPA, although that agency had not conducted such an audit in more rthan seven years. Councilmembers Bill Greenlee, Derek Green and Cherelle Parker, who all voted against the resolution, each spoke at length about the need to first examine existing annual audits filed by the state each year.
“We need to consider that audit and document before we consider another audit,” Greenlee said. “I respectfully ask that this resolution be rejected.”
Councilwoman Helen Gym pointed out that the annual statements are not the same as a performance audit, which the PPA has not faced since 2009.
“There has been a number of financial audits, the Parking Authority has one done every year...But that is fundamentally different from what the resolution requests,” she said.
Gym added that numerous financial statistics and management data were not included in the agency’s annual reports.
The PPA is widely regarded as a source of patronage jobs for politically connected individuals from both parties.
In another unusual move, Clarke initially called for a voice vote on the resolution. When that vote appeared to be split, Oh called for a roll call vote to record the names of votes for and against the resolution.
Clarke and chief clerk Michael Decker then consulted the rules of council, ultimately determining that the council president had the power to call for a show of hands in favor of the vote.
Gym, Cindy Bass, Mark Squilla, Allan Domb raised their hands in support of the bill, with all other members opposed.
Ultimately, votes for and against the resolution were not recorded in council record. Council went on to unanimously vote for a separate resolution generally condemning sexual harassment.
Fenerty, who will collect a $154,000 annual pension, has been temporarily replaced by Deputy Directors Corinne O'Connor and Rick Dickson. O’Connor is a former Republican committeeperson and Dickson once served as aide to Republican Congressman Ray Lederer.