tv NBC10 Issue NBC February 28, 2016 11:30am-12:01pm EST
embarrassing and insulting to philadelphia voters. strong words from a local watchdog group about the man who heads the city commissioner's office. today we'll discuss why the committee of 70 is so angry. plus, allegations of voter fraud. are your lawmakers voting, or is someone else? >> i watch the representative lean over and push the button. i watched it happen. and a unique program that connects job seekers to jobs that pay a living wage. good morning, everyone. i'm jim rosenfield for "nbc 1 10 @ issue." we begin with an alarming report
on how elections are being run here in philadelphia. are the handful of people in charge of elections actually doing the job they were elected to do? right now the watchdog group the committee of 70 is working to change the way those who oversee elections actually land their jobs. ceo david thornburg believes philadelphia commissioners should be appointed rather than elected. the philadelphia city commissioners are a three-member bipartisan board. they're the people who make sure your vote counts, literally. they're in charge of elections and voter registration for the city. commissioners are elected to four-year terms, and there are no term limits. right now the three commissioners serving are chairman anthony clashing, vice chairman al schmitt, and lisa. anthony clark has been under fire for not showing up to work as chairman. he makes nearly $140,000 a year. but clark says he stays in touch with his staff by phone, even when he's on vacation and often
works away from the office. well, with me now is the president and ceo of the committee of 70, david thornburg. david, thanks for being here. first of all, for those who may not be familiar, what exactly is the committee of 70? what do you do? >> sure. i describe us as an independent, nonpartisan advocate for good government in philadelphia and pennsylvania. we've been doing this for a long time. we care about elections. we care about the way government works. it makes sure taxpayers get everything they can for their tax dollars. >> your organization believes commissioners should not be elected, that they should be appointed. why? >> well, this is a long-standing issue. we're very different than other cities. we pay more, we get less, and this has become enflamed recently, as you suggested, because it's clear the chair of the commissioners literally doesn't show up for work. he doesn't vote. he doesn't have an office computer. he doesn't use e-mail.
he doesn't have a phone. so i think people are embarrassed and incensed that we've got a structure that allows that kind of misbehavior to take place. >> a lot would need to happen to change how this is done, but let's say they are appointed and not elected. how is that any better? because it puts that decision in a handful of people's hands and cronyism comes to mind. >> you need two things in this process. you need political accountability, and you need an elections professional. you need somebody who's actually trained and schooled in the process of running elections. we have neither. you look at other cities, new york, chicago, pittsburgh, they actually do and have managed to do that in a way that respects the political process and gives you some accountability but also puts somebody in that job who shows up, knows what they're doing, and gets to work. >> why is it so important, this job that the commissioners do?
what are we talking about that they oversee that affects our viewers? >> it's symbolically important. i think if people don't trust the voting process, if they don't have a sense of the integrity of the office, everything else falls apart. frankly, when we're looking at a situation where maybe in a good mayoral year, 25%, 27% of the people vote. we ought to have alarm bells going off. we need to do something to re-engage people in this fundamental democratic process. >> so that is part of their job, to sort of get out and into the community and educate people about the voting process. >> yeah, that's part of it. but we would argue that there's lots of people who should share that responsibility. and that's not enough of a job. that's not a full-time job that merits $140,000 salary. >> $140,000 is a lot of money. >> well, it's -- >> you say that's more than other cities' pay. >> it's more than new york, and new york is six times larger than philadelphia. it's more than chicago. it's more than pittsburgh.
there's no good reason for that to be the case. there's not anything particularly special about philadelphia that requires us to put that money there instead of putting it into the schools or things that are really important to people. >> let's talk about your idea of changing this to an appointed commissioner or commissioners. is there support in city council to amend the charter? >> well, i think there will be. there's a growing sense that there's a parade building. there's an organization called the philadelphia citizen that's launched an online petition drive that is still open, if your viewers want to take a look at it. that's attracted a thousand supporters in little more than a week. so i think there's a sense of outrage. the political calculus is when there's a parade building, someone's liable to jump out in front. but i'm confident there will be support. >> and let's talk about the timing here. the democrats are going to be right here in philadelphia this summer for their convention. how does it look if they're
coming to a city where the chairman of the commission that's tasked with getting people out to vote and make sure that voting is proper and done as it should be -- >> look, the last thing you want to be when you're hosting a convention like that is a national joke. we're a national joke right now. this news percolates around. the fact that we've got this guy not showing up, we're paying him a lot of money, this dysfunctional office, it's an embarrassment. i think it's exactly the wrong kind of signal to send about life in philadelphia these days. >> why can nothing be done to ensure that the commissioners or the chairman in this case actually does show up to work? >> well, it's embedded in a lot of law and the protection of elected officials. frankly, one of the reasons we step forward to say we need to eliminate the office is we don't have any other leverage to use
except shaming to get somebody to show up for work. so there's a combination of things going on here. it's a dysfunctional office. we've got a bad actor in place. and it's time to end it. >> let's talk about how this would work again. you're really talking about turning this into a professional appointed position that the mayor would appoint or the city council. >> well, we're looking carefully at other models. also at things like the board of ethics here in philadelphia and the civil service commission, which have a professional staff but then a board that's appointed by the mayor with council approval and also has bipartisan representation. >> so that would give them the power to fire that person then in that situation if they didn't show up? >> well, we're still sifting through the details it on exactly how that works. we haven't quite nailed down. but as i said, you want a professional staff and political accountability. that's what we're trying to construct here.
again, we're so different than the rest of the country. there's lots of models to choose from. >> your committee says this type of behavior could actually impact philadelphians at the state and federal level. how so? >> well, sure. we spend a lot of time in harrisburg asking for support for things like school funding or capital projects or whatever. and this kind of conduct and this kind of dysfunction sends a signal to the rest of the state that says those folks in philadelphia are playing fast and loose with their political process, which is a -- i have to say a long-standing perception, and it just doesn't help. >> and there's nothing that the city council can do right now to remove a person who's not showing up? >> no, because this is a separately elected office. that's the frustrating thing. we've looked into this. the mayor doesn't have a whole lot of ability to change things, except move a bill, get two-thirds of the vote on council, mayor signs, and then
it goes to the voters. that's how it can change. >> i actually asked the mayor's office whether there was any action that the mayor was contemplating right now, any solution at all. the administration said that it was looking into what it could do about a commissioner who supposedly wasn't showing up for work, but the mayor's spokesman said it's still looking at options to censure commissioner clark, but since he's an independently elected official, the mayor's options are legally limited. >> that's exactly right. >> we also reached out to all three commissioners to get their take on this, to join us here today in this conversation. chairman anthony clark, he never responded to our calls or e-mails. >> welcome to the club. >> we don't know what he has to say on this issue. vice chair al schmidt said he would be out of town. lisa deeley said she had a conflict with her schedule, but she did send a written response. in an e-mail, she said, the city commissioner should remain an elected office. there is no more transparent and
accountable way to select those who govern. she goes on to say, appointments strengthen the power of those already in power. we need to engage people in the voting process, not take the voting power away. so that's their take as much as we could get from the three commissioners on this issue. coming up next, the nbc 10 investigators uncover allegations of voter fraud among pennsylvania's highest ranking voters.
welcome back. the nbc 10 investigators uncover allegations of voter fraud among pennsylvania's highest ranking voters. state representatives make the laws that the rest of us have to follow, but we've learned they're not always following their own rules. nbc 10's investigative reporter has the details. >> reporter: december 22nd on the floor of the state house. >> all those in favor of the motion. >> reporter: a series of budget-related votes with impacts on everything from your property taxes to your
children's schools. >> we need to give pennsylvanians a budget. >> reporter: but the vote happening in this video just beneath the camera site was separated by a margin of only one. >> the yeas are 100. the nays are 99. >> reporter: we know now some members voted more than once. you consider that voter fraud. >> i consider it voter fraud on the floor of the house. >> reporter: daryl metcalf was the first to notice several colleagues missing. democrat peter daley said he wasn't even in harrisburg that day, but in western pennsylvania at legal hearings for his private practice. and democrat leslie acosta from philly tells us she was out of the country in nicaragua on an emergency trip to care for her ill father. and yet, we found both of their names listed among the tiny majority voting yes. representative daley says he was as surprised as anyone. >> i said, i'm on leave. i sent the leave in. that's what i'm required to do. i should not be voting.
>> reporter: other members had apparently punched in votes for the absent members, swaying the outcome in favor of supporters. >> i watched the representative lean over and push representative daley's button. >> you watched that happen? >> i watched it happen. >> reporter: so-called ghost voting is against the rules set by these rule makers. quote, no member shall be permitted to vote and have his or her vote recorded on the roll call unless present in the hall of the house during the roll call vote. but when we combed through every voting record for december 22nd, we discovered acosta and daley were listed as voting five times each between late morning and midafternoon before they were finally marked on leave for the last vote of the day shortly after 4:00. barry kauffman of pennsylvania common cause says ghost voting can change outcomes and fuel public cynicism. >> what this really comes down to is government integrity and the ability for the public to hold their officials accountable.
>> reporter: the nbc 10 investigators contacted allentown representative who metcalf allegedly saw double voting. >> did you press another representative's button that day? >> yes. >> is that standard? >> i would say it's something that happens in the house from time to time. >> reporter: he says house votes happen so quickly, members sometimes vote for an absent neighbor who's in the restroom or away from their floor desk. he insists a miscommunication left him thinking representative daley was nearby. >> i think that it is safe to say that this is something that happens from time to time in the house from both parties. calling it voter fraud is a serious overexaggeration, without question. >> reporter: how much does this happen? >> i would say it does not happen very often. >> reporter: the spokesman for the house democratic caucus says members are supposed to put themselves on leave when they're away. representative daley did that, but that request never made it on to the record until the final vote. representative acosta admits she forgot to submit the leave
request, meaning other members have to notice and speak up as metcalf did that day. he says each pennsylvania constituent ultimately suffers from the mistakes. >> that person's vote that was their vote was cast by somebody that they don't elect that they most likely don't even know. >> reporter: for now, it is still a mystery who pushed the voting button of representative acosta. she declined and on-camera interview and said she didn't want to get anyone in trouble. george spencer, nbc 10. >> and back with me is david thornburgh, president and ceo of the committee of 70, a watchdog group that monitors corruption in philadelphia and state elections as well. david, you just saw the story. are you surprised this is going on? >> well, i follow pennsylvania politics and politics around the country for a long time. this is behavior that happens from time to time. there's no good excuse. there really isn't. people need to know that their legislators are there and voting
for bills, particularly important ones. so there really is no excuse. >> it may seem obvious, but why should our viewers care about votes cast by lawmakers who are may not be on the house floor? >> well, it raises all kinds of questions about the integrity of the process because now you don't really know who's voting for what. frankly -- and i understand the pressures of being a legislator. it's a busy job. there are votes coming up left and right. but you know -- and they're very sensitive to being present for votes. that having been said, it doesn't excuse letting somebody else vote for you. >> in this day and age, isn't there technology that could be used on the house floor to ensure that somebody is actually there, like swiping a card, an electronic card swipe to allow you to cast your vote? >> sure. you could have iris scanners or fingerprint readers, all kinds of things. you'd hope it didn't have to come down to that. you'd hope there was a basic sense of trust and obligation
that, you know, one man, one vote applies on the house as well as elsewhere. >> do you think lawmakers should have the ability to invalidate a vote in this kind of situation if rules have been broken? >> i don't know. i don't know enough about the intricacies of the process to know if that makes sense, but just go back to the basics. people have a right to expect that their legislator, the one they voted for, is, in fact, the one pressing yea or nay. >> what about a staff member authorized to cast a vote? >> just as you grant powers of attorney to a disabled relative or something like that, maybe there's a way to do that. but it's got to be a clear process that allows that to happen, not just kind of an ad hoc situation. >> david thornburgh, president and ceo of the committee of 70, we thank you for joining us here. >> my pleasure, jim. next, connecting workers with jobs. we're going to tell you about
welcome back. anyone who has lost a job or is underemployed knows how tough it can be to make a career change. people looking for work are likely to succeed with support and training. that's where philadelphia works can help by connecting job seekers directly to employers. the organization can also direct people with barriers to employment to the help they might need. joining me now is mark edwards, the president and ceo of philadelphia works. mark, thanks for being here today on "@ issue." you call it one-stop shopping for job seekers. explain what that is. >> this is an opportunity for job seekers to come into a physical location and get access to a range of training opportunities that they would need in order to prepare them for jobs that are available. they can get resume writing
help. they can search for jobs on the computer. also, perhaps just as important, employers can come into the center or contact one of our representatives and make sure that the jobs they have available are represented in that system. so when job seekers come in to look for jobs, they can access those jobs. so we encourage employers to participate in our system as well. >> anyone can walk into one of these centers and use these services? >> anyone can walk into one of those centers to use our services, and they can go to our website and find the location of those centers. those centers are located at four locations that are geographically dispersed around the city. then they have what we refer to as community connections, where we partner with neighborhood-based organizations who also tie their services into those centers. they're entry level jobs available where people can go in with a minimum degree of training and qualify for jobs, to jobs that require a college degree or a masters' degree or
specialized training in order to fill those job opportunities. >> we mentioned barriers to landing these jobs. what are some of the biggest barriers people encounter? >> one of the things that the national work force system is responsible for implementing now as a result of a recent law passed, we authorize the national work force legislation, affectionately referred to weowa. that requires the public work force system to provide support to those who have barriers to employment. so if it's a veteran or a spouse of a qualified veteran who need work force services, they get priority of service. if there's a person who's a returning citizen, this is a person who's had some brush with the law, they've paid their debt to society and want to return back into neighborhoods and communities from which they come, they can come into these centers and access these services in partnership with other organizations that we work with who provide specific services to meet the needs of
that population. people who are handicapped or people for whom english is not the first language, we also provide services to people in those categories as well. >> is there a cost involved? >> there is no cost to either the employer, who wants to make available their job opportunity to any range of job seekers who have a diverse background. and there's no cost associated with the job seeker or the individual coming into our center for services. >> if you've been looking for work and you feel like you're hitting a brick wall, this is a place where people can go. >> that's true. to be able to come into a center and interact with other people and actually see examples of people we have posted within those centers, people who like themselves have been involved in the process for quite some time but have met with success. so it can be motivating for people to come in and be able to work with somebody one on one to provide the level of support they need in addition to what that person is doing as a result
of their own initiative. >> give them some hope. >> exactly. >> mark edwards of philadelphia works. we thank you for being here on "@ issue." if you'd like more information on philadelphia works, we've put a link to the organization on our website, nbc10.com. or you can click the nbc 10 app, and we'll be right back.
welcome back. wanted to let you know it's your last chance to lace up for a skate at the blue cross river rink. if you don't get there today, you're going to have to wait until next year. the rink, which is on the delaware river waterfront near the great plaza, is open until 10:30 tonight. it costs $3 to get on the ice and $10 if you need to rent skates. independent blue cross card holders get free admission. moving forward this summer, you can expect the return of the spruce street harbor park. that's it for this edition of "nbc 10 @ issue." join us tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. for nbc 10 news at 4:00. have a great sunday.
>> announcer: nbc sports, home of the 2016 rio olympics. the nhl. premier league. the nascar chase for the sprint cup playoffs. and primetime's number one show, "sunday night football." only on nbc. springlike conditions here in chicago. the temperature, 57 degrees and two teams who plan on playing very deep into the spring. we have the defending stanley cup champions, chicago blackhawks, here at home as they play host to the washington capitals who have the league's best overall record right now. we welcome you inside the united center. lots of changes here in chicago. one of the newest blackhawks on the ice right now, here's andrew ladd. >> andrew, you're back in a chicago blackhawks uniform. what went through your mind when you heard the news? >> i was pretty excited.