While Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of public corruption, some city officials are calling on him to step down, including Mayor Jim Kenney.
“Obviously, it’s a terrible situation,” Kenney said Thursday. “He cannot conduct the duties and responsibilities of his office in this current condition, so for the good of the office and for the good of the city, he should probably step aside.”
But not everyone at City Hall is willing to go that far.
At Philadelphia’s City Council Thursday meeting, reactions to Williams’ indictment ranged from “no comment” to the less pithy equivalent — that the district attorney should decide for himself.
“In my opinion, everyone is innocent until and unless proven guilty and so therefore, I don’t assume that he is guilty unless the evidence shows it,” said Councilman David Oh. “If he feels that he is hampered and limited from doing his job, then he will make a determination as to whether or not he should resign.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Williams pleaded not guilty to federal charges of bribery, extortion and wire fraud. In announcing last month that he would not run for a third term, Williams apologized for taking more than $160,000 in gifts and not disclosing them in annual mandatory reports. He has agreed to the city’s largest-ever ethics settlement of about $62,000.
“I absolutely think he should resign,” said Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, who was an early supporter when Williams first ran for DA — and lost — in 2005.
“I think that it creates chaos when we don’t need it,” Quiñones-Sánchez added. “If he built around him a strong enough team … they should be able to shepherd this through the next eight months.”
Council President Darrell Clarke would not comment on whether Williams should step down, but finds his indictment “troubling.”
“That in the fifth-largest city that the chief law enforcement officer gets indicted, that’s extremely troubling,” he said. “There have been a series of indictments in the state of Pennsylvania and in the city of Philadelphia over the last several years, and it’s problematic for the perspective individuals may have about our city and our state.”
State law requires officials to resign only after they are convicted and sentenced.
Meanwhile, eight candidates are vying to take Williams’ place. To hear interviews with each candidate, including seven Democrats and one Republican, check out NewsWorks/WHYY’s Dave Davies’ Off Mic blog.