The City of Philadelphia cut ties Wednesday with an auto-body business contracted to repair police and other public vehicles after media reports revealed that a shop employee has a history with the mob.
Ronald Galati Sr. was an associate of former mob leader Joey “Skinny” Merlino. He served time on a racketeering conviction and allegedly was connected to a murder plot planned by rival mobster John Stanfa.
Until Friday, the 63-year-old worked at American Collision & Automotive Center in South Philadelphia, where his son, Ronald Galati Jr., serves as president. Galati Sr. is now behind bars after being charged with attempted murder, solicitation of murder and witness intimidation.
As a result of the “tempest” borne out of Galati Sr.’s mob ties and the shop’s work with police vehicles, mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said the city will stop sending vehicles to the shop for the remainder of its current contract, set to expire in late January.
“The city government is not looking to create controversy,” said McDonald.
As of August, Philadelphia had paid American Collision – one of two shops with a city contract to repair public vehicles – more than $1.2 million. The contract began in fiscal year 2011.
For the next month and half, all city vehicles will be repaired at either Pacifico Ford near Philadelphia International Airport or the city’s in-house repair shop.
Civic activist Brett Mandel, who fell short in a run for city controller, said the episode is an example of why Philadelphia needs to be more transparent with its budget.
“Because it’s public money, you want to make sure it’s going to people that aren’t fouling the environment. You want to make sure it’s not going to criminals,” Mandel said. “There’s a reason that we scrutinize this, it’s because it’s not their money, it’s our money.”
McDonald said it was Galati’s son who signed the contract with the city and that, according to officials with the city’s Office of Fleet Management that executed the contract, the shop had a good reputation for quick repair work.
The allegations tied to Galati’s arrest are unclear. His attorney, Joseph Santaguida, said his client was charged as part of a grand jury investigation and that the witness intimidation charge could be connected to an insurance fraud probe.
“It’s the only thing that makes sense,” said Santaguida.