Scandal-plagued Philly office awaits new sheriff

Federal fraud charges filed last week against a Philadelphia Sheriff’s office employee and three others underscore the challenges that await newly elected Sheriff Jewell Williams when he is inaugurated in January.

Williams, a state representative and Democratic ward leader who won the sheriff’s race in November, didn’t return calls to talk about his plans for the scandal-plagued office.

Former City Controller Joe Vignola, who has worked as a deputy sheriff for finance and accountability for the past year to clean up the office, said the new sheriff will have a full plate.

New internal controls should prevent the kind of theft alleged in the federal charges, Vignola said, adding that Williams should continue efforts to upgrade the information system for sheriff sales, which remains relatively primitive.

And, Vignola said, Williams should see plenty more of the federal investigators.

“We anticipate that the federal grand jury will continue to be looking at the sheriff’s office for the foreseeable future,” Vignola said.

Vignola said Williams must make personnel choices wisely. He’ll also have to address understaffing among sheriff’s deputies who transport prisoners and provide courtroom security, Vignola said.

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