Former Philly councilwoman filled out DROP application

Former Philadelphia City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Former Philadelphia City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A former Philadelphia city councilwoman has applied for retirement less than two months after taking a new city job.

If Blondell Reynolds Brown follows through with enrolling in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP), she could see a six-figure bonus.

Reynolds Brown decided to retire from her council job just over a year ago with great fanfare, including an hour-long announcement in the Mayor’s reception room.

“There really is a new opportunity out there with my name on it but right now as I stand here I don’t know where it is,” she said back January 2019.

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At the time, there was an extremely crowded field of candidates for the at-large seats on council.  She had the second fewest votes among winning candidates in the 2015 election.

While retiring from council, she chose not to sign up for DROP, consistent with her past pledges not to enroll in the program. Today, when reminded she signed a pledge 10 years ago not to enter DROP, Reynolds Brown replied the following,

“When I was asked about the program a decade ago I was in much different place than I am now. Like many people over the course of 10 years, my thought process and considerations are different. It’s a reasonable expectation that my situation and direction changed based on my circumstances, not unlike anyone else. I’m eligible for a city benefit based on my 24 years of service and I intend to explore this legal option that is available to me.”

Some council members who enrolled in DROP, such as Frank Rizzo Jr., were defeated. Others taking advantage of the program simply chose to retire as a public backlash ensued.

Now Reynolds Brown has a new job with the Register of Wills and submitted a DROP application on February 18th.

Given her years of service and salary, Reynolds Brown could get hundreds of thousands of dollars in the form of a lump-sum payment from DROP, while still keeping her city pension.

The Register of Wills Issued a statement on behalf of Reynolds Brown that she is only weighing her options and has not made a final determination. The city confirms she filled out an application last week but it has not been processed.

Register of Wills Tracey Gordon issued the following statement,

“I’ve been pleased to have Councilwoman Reynolds Brown on my staff to head up the preservation efforts of our office. One of the recommendations out of the transition team was an immediate plan to create a private public partnership to find resources to maintain the thousands of historical records in our office, some of them date back to the 1600’s Councilwoman Reynolds-Brown has been a well known advocate for historic preservation and in her time in city council successfully fought for legislation to increase funding in maintaining the city’s history. The insight and perspective the councilwoman brings to our team is invaluable.”

But a spokesperson for Gordon added “The Register has not been notified by the city Board of Pensions or by her internal HR department of the councilwoman’s intent to enter DROP. If Councilwoman Reynolds Brown enrolls in this benefit program, the office is prepared to work with her for a smooth transition.

DROP was created to help the city plan for retirements of key staffers, but the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority found what was sold as a money saver has cost Philadelphia at least $237 million.

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