Philly D.A. mum on whether his prosecutors have completed sensitivity training

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 District Attorney Seth Williams (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY file photo)

District Attorney Seth Williams (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY file photo)

Back in September, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced three prosecutors involved in the “porngate” email scandal would keep their jobs but receive sensitivity training. More than two months later, the District Attorney’s office is not saying whether that has actually happened.

Since last Wednesday, the D.A.’s press office has not responded to multiple requests about whether the three prosecutors, Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo and Pat Blessington, have received the training. 

A source close to the D.A.’s office said the agency contacted an outside firm that provides such training, but has had trouble with scheduling. A spokesman for Williams did not respond to a request for confirmation. 

“That just goes to prove what we have thought at the very beginning that this was not being taken seriously by the district attorney’s office,” said Nina Ahmad, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW).

An online petition launched by Philadelphia NOW earlier this week has roughly 300 signatures asking District Attorney Seth Williams to fire the three prosecutors for sending or receiving “emails with content devaluing, demeaning and hateful towards women, members of the LGBT community and people of color.”

Williams said in September that Fina, Blessington and Costanzo did not deserve to be fired because the emails were traded when they worked for the state Attorney General’s office six years ago.

Following a press conference last week in which Philadelphia’s five city councilwoman called for the prosecutors’ removal, Williams released a statement saying he understood their concerns and that the men “had been disciplined.”  He did not elaborate on what that meant.

Attorney Deborah Weinstein teaches employment law at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and conducts sensitivity training through her Philadelphia-based firm. She has not been contacted the D.A.’s office, but explained this kind of training is rooted in the law and workplace anti-harrassment policies.

“Our work has gotten a lot easier in recent years because of all the stupid things that public figures have done and should never have done, but everybody’s watching,” she said.

Weinstein gave the examples of celebrity chef Paula Deen who admitted in a deposition for a discimination lawsuit to “using the N-word,” and former New York congressman Anthony Weiner who resgined amid a “sexting” scandal. 

“In the situation we have going on now in ‘porngate,’ these people were acting in their official capacities,” she said. “They are attorneys and judges and they are expected to conform their conduct to the same standards as people in other jobs.”

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