Three Philadelphia elected officials can remain on the ballot despite their participation in a controversial retirement plan known as DROP. Common Pleas Court Judge James Lynn ruled Wednesday that the law, as it’s written, allows the politicians to run for re-election. But petitioners plan to appeal the decision.
Public outcry over DROP has already forced several council members to throw in the towel and not run for re-election.
But Council members Marion Tasco and Frank Rizzo Jr., along with City Commissioner Marge Tartaglione, want to keep their jobs. They argued an opinion by the city solicitor allows them to retire for a day, collect a lump-sum DROP payment and come out of retirement to serve a new term. Lynn agreed.
Republican Ward leader and attorney Matthew Wolfe, who filed the suit, said the judge is wrong.
“If somebody breaks the law, they can’t raise it as a defense that they talked to their lawyer and their lawyer told them it was OK if it’s wrong,” said Wolfe.
Wolfe said he intends to file an appeal of the judge’s ruling with Commonwealth Court.
Rizzo’s attorney Dennis Cogan said he agrees the program is bad policy. But he said the law is clear.
“The judge pointed out in his way that this is a country of laws not judges. That legislation is very clear and allows people who are separating themselves, even for a day, from public office to run again,” Cogan said.
If there is an appeal, Cogan said the plaintiffs could end up footing the bill for both sides. He has asked the court to rule the complaint frivolous.
Rizzo said he hopes legislation will allow him to return his lump-sum payment.