Sheriff sweepstakes

    Former city housing director John Kromer announces his candidacy for Philadelphia sheriff today, running on a platform of abolishing the post as an elected office.

    In a normal election he would stand no chance. The office would be captured by the candidate endorsed by Democratic ward leaders (see last week’s post on Where Sheriffs Come From).

    But this campaign will be anything but normal.

    With no competitive mayoral primary to suck up all the media attention, there will be room in newspapers, newscasts and websites for coverage of lower offices.

    And it will be a multi-candidate field. So far at least four Democrats look like candidates: Kromer, State Rep. Jewell Williams, former police captain Alan Kurtz and housing police union leader Rodney Little.

    And the screw-ups and scandals at the sheriff’s office seem to be a daily, if not hourly occurrence.

    Before I get to the latest, here’s an update on an item I wrote about the arrest of a man last week at a sheriff’s sale auction. Sheriff Barbara Deeley told me a man who couldn’t bid on a property he wanted “got pissed and started swinging,” inflicting minor injuries on four deputies.

    I heard from the man, James Porter, who said Deeley’s account is wrong in several respects.

    Porter said he’s involved in a business dispute and two lawsuits involving the property, and had tried unsuccessfully to get its auction postponed. When officials at the sheriff’s office refused (one of whom was later suspended in a management house cleaning), Porter said he followed his attorney’s advice and tried to announce at the auction that the property being sold was the subject of a federal lawsuit.

    He said he got a few words out before he was grabbed by several deputies who threw him to the ground, tore his coat, may have hit him with a stun gun, and sat on him with so much pressure that he couldn’t breathe.

    He said never swung at any of the men, who he says were in plain clothes and didn’t identify themselves, but he did shove one who approached him menacingly from the side.

    Deeley didn’t respond to an e-mail I sent about Porter’s account. He’ll have his day in court on the pending assault charge.

    Meanwhile, there was the revelation by Bob Warner in the Daily News that for the last four years, the Philadelphia sheriff’s office stopped sending money from sheriff sale proceeds to the state, and stopped filing requiring financial reports about them.

    It’s likely the office owes the state and countless homeowners money, but it’s not clear how to determine how much. Joe Vignola, who was appointed to try and straighten things out at the sheriff’s office, told Warner, “We might have the records, we might not have the records, or the records we have may be inaccurate.”

    Also our friends at the It’s Our Money blog have a wild story about a sheriff’s office website that was run by a now-fired public relations firm. The website, which was supposed to allow people to big on sheriff sale properties, was disabled by hackers.

    Read the It’s Our Money post here and keep an eye on the site today for further developments.

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