Despite intense media scrutiny and public outcry, Democrat Anthony Clark will remain chairman of the Philadelphia City Commissioners – the three-member board that oversees elections.
Clark, 56, easily won a third term in November after running unopposed, but he’s been under fire for months because of a spotty voting record and allegations that he routinely doesn’t show up for work.
Clark reportedly failed to vote in 2012 and 2013, as well as in the 2014 primary.
Following Wednesday’s commissioners’ vote to reinstall him as leader, Clark brushed off his voting history, telling reporters it’s his right to choose whether he casts a ballot.
“I’m an American, and I enjoy the rights under the Constitution that gives me the ability to exercise my rights like everyone else,” said Clark.
In October, weeks before the city voters chose a new mayor, it took WHYY five visits to the city commissioners office to find Clark at work there.
Clark contends he’s never been missing and has always been available by appointment.
“Being an elected official, you get called to do different things. You’re not just sitting at your desk. This is a world of technology. I’m always in communication,” he said.
That may not be true.
A Right-to-Know request recently filed by a cohort of organizations devoted to fair elections and good governance has revealed that Clark has neither a city-issued cell phone nor a city-issued computer, said Alison Perelman, executive director of Philadelphia 3.0.
“It does raise some questions about his ability to do basic workplace functions in the absence of, what I think we would all consider to be, the two most central technologies required to work,” said Perelman.
Committee of 70, 5th Square PAC, and Philly Set Go are also part of the request aimed at getting data on Clark’s attendance and shining a light on his behavior.
“We are groups, in our own individual and unique ways, are trying to get the voting population engaged in the political process, and this certainly doesn’t help,” said Gabriela Guaracao, co-founder of Philly Set Go. “He is the embodiment of what impunity means.”
Vice-chair Al Schmidt, the board’s lone Republican, said he wanted some continuity as the office prepares for this year’s presidential election, which will more than likely spike voter registration and voter turnout.
“In this case, it’s a matter of have the last three years been successful for this department? And the answer is, categorically, yes,” said Schmidt.
Clark and Schmidt became co-chairs of the commission after they voted to oust Democrat Stephanie Singer amid growing friction.
Democrat Lisa Deeley has since taken Singer’s spot after Singer failed to collect enough valid signatures to get on the ballot.
As chairman, Clark’s salary will be $136,161.