Bailey calls for Council hearings into DA’s office porn-email scandal

 Republican mayoral candidate Melissa Murray Bailey called on City Council 'to defund the salary' of three people involved in the DA's office email scandal. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Republican mayoral candidate Melissa Murray Bailey called on City Council 'to defund the salary' of three people involved in the DA's office email scandal. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Melissa Murray Bailey, the Republican candidate in Philadelphia’s mayoral race, called on City Council “to have the courage to open an investigation, hold hearings, and find out what’s really going on” in a District Attorney’s office beset by controversy related to pornographic emails.

During a Wednesday press conference held outside the DA’s office, located catty-corner from City Hall, Murray also asked Council “to defund the salary of the three individuals at the center of this case since Seth Williams has chosen to protect his political cronies.”

There, she chided Williams’ holiday weekend-eve announcement that he would send Frank Fina, E. Marc Costanzo and Patrick Blessington to “sensitivity training” rather than fire or discipline them for involvement in an email exchange of pornography while the trio still worked at the state Attorney General’s Office.

When NinetyNine asked Bailey whether she was calling for Williams’ removal from elected office, she responded that she wanted the entire situation investigated.

“Over 100 hours,: That is how long it has been since Williams announced that the only punishment for three prosecutors in his office who circulated misogynistic, racist and homophobic emails would be sensitivity training,” she said. “One hundred hours and nothing but silence from the leaders of our city and state.

“There should be outrage [and] leaders should be coming forward calling for more. Instead, silence. And silence is unacceptable.”

She echoed sentiments expressed by the the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women, which last week urged Williams to take action.

“Once again, Mr. Williams and the political machine obviously didn’t talk to us: The people of Philadelphia whose taxes were used to fund this e-mail debacle and spawn a culture that finds the blatant degradation of women acceptable,” she said.

“We have a big problem with it, Mr. Williams,” she continued. “And, we know what happened was wrong. We speak out against pay inequality, but not for basic respect in the workplace?

On Monday, Ahmad said she worries about these men making decisions on how and when to prosecute sexual violence or sexual harassment crimes.

“If they’re staying on and all they’re getting is a little sensitivity training, no other consequence, what are the people who serve under them, understanding about this process? That women don’t matter, all we have to do is a little training and we can continue on our merry way?”

Bailey positioned the current scandal as being emblematic of an “insiders’ game” leaving taxpayers on the outside looking in.

“The people of Philadelphia should wonder, ‘Why have we heard nothing from Mayor Nutter or Jim Kenney or City Council?'” said Bailey, who didn’t vote in the 2013 DA’s race. “The answer: They don’t think they have to answer to the people, because they think the people will blindly elect them anyway.”

Kenney campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt was asked for comment on the issue after Bailey’s presser.

“There’s no question that their behavior was offensive and unacceptable,” Hitt said, “and Jim will not tolerate those actions in his administration if elected.”

Whether Council would call for hearings, or if it’s possible to “defund” those positions in the DA’s office, remained unclear later Wednesday as an email to Council President Darrell Clarke’s office wasn’t immediately returned.

Any potential “defunding” would manifest itself during the DA’s office’s annual-budget process before Council. That last occurred in early May.

UPDATE: District Attorney’s office spokesman Cameron Kline issued this statement late Wednesday:

“While Philadelphia District Attorney Williams respects everyone’s opinion on this matter, he was surprised the Republican mayoral candidate’s first visit to the office was to discuss the email issue. He offers to welcome her back anytime to discuss this and other pressing issues like gun violence reduction strategies and improving public safety in Philadelphia.”

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