Kenney spokeswoman rescinds statement calling former city solicitor ‘unwilling to be helpful’

A spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Kenney has taken back a statement she delivered months earlier accusing the former city solicitor of holding back key information during the transition to a new administration.

In January, spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said former City Solicitor Shelley Smith has been “unwilling to be helpful in any way, shape or form” in terms of briefing the new administration on open cases, but she now is reversing that position. 

“My statement speculating about why Shelley did not provide us with this information was just that, speculation,” Hitt said in a statement.

When she gave the remarks, Hitt said, she didn’t realize that Smith provided the Kenney transition team with binders of pending lawsuits and met with Kenney officials to discuss the leadership changeover.

“At that time I made that assertion, I did not know, and made no effort to ascertain from her, whether Shelley knew about the Right-to-Know request or the Law Department’s intention to file its appeal,” Hitt said.

Hitt’s comments came in response to city lawyers deciding to take the Defender Association of Philadelphia to court to avoid releasing records relating to how officers stop and frisk pedestrians.

The defenders’ request is complicated, but in essence, they would like to obtain detailed information about pedestrian stops that city attorneys worry would violate the privacy of officers and pedestrians.

The information sought is different from the data on stop and frisk that the police department is already required to report as the result of a lawsuit triggered after the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit over pedestrian stops being conducted without reasonable suspicion in 2010.

Oral arguments over whether the defenders’ association should be given detailed information about how officers stop and frisk pedestrians are scheduled for August 1st, and Common Pleas Court Judge Nina Wright Padilla will preside over the hearing.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal