Prosecutor who bugged Street working for Nutter

January 24, 2008 1:01:07 PM PST
A federal prosecutor who got a secret court order to bug former Mayor John Street's office now fights corruption just a few feet away from where the listening device was planted.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Joan Markman is now chief integrity officer for Mayor Michael Nutter, and the irony is not lost on her: She keeps a can of bug spray, a departing gift from her former colleagues, on display in her City Hall office.

Markman and two other ex-prosecutors have signed on to help Nutter clean house after a string of corruption probes that sent more than a dozen people to prison.

The scandals ranged from the city treasurer, a councilman and plumbing inspectors, all on the take, to businesses offering bribes or campaign cash in exchange for lucrative city work.

The FBI bugged Street's office in 2003, but the listening device was soon discovered by city police.

Street was never charged and denies wrongdoing, but the steady drumbeat of bad news seemed to paralyze his administration.

"It brings the whole city down," said Amy Kurland, who worked on the plumbers' case. "People don't want to do business in the city. Philadelphia is known for being a corrupt place. That's what we're hoping to change."

As the city's inspector general, Kurland, 51, wields the power to issue subpoenas and refer suspected fraud to federal and city prosecutors.

In her new position, Markman, 50, will focus on the management of city contracts. Nutter, who as a councilman during Street's tenure successfully fought for tougher ethics rules, named her to the post, which she likens to that of a compliance officer. About 30,000 people work for the city.

"If there's wrongdoing, it doesn't have to rise to the level of a federal crime to do something about it," Markman said this week.

In 2005, Markman made opening statements to the jury that convicted former city Treasurer Corey Kemp and four others, including a pair of bank executives, of corruption. Kemp is serving a 10-year term for accepting cash, trips, a favorable mortgage and other bribes.

"I was discouraged by the many opportunities for corruption when there weren't controls from the top or messages from the top," Markman said. "What angered me is they felt entitled to it because of who they knew, or what political contributions they made or who they had schmoozed."

Another former colleague from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Kenya Mann, helped send former City Councilman Rick Mariano to prison for taking money from friends and constituents in exchange for government help. Nutter has nominated Mann, who recently left for a law firm job, to an advisory City Ethics Board.

"I was saddened by some of the things I saw people do," Mann, 42, said Thursday. "(But) I didn't feel like it was irreparable, because I also met people who still believed in the city. ... I saw people in the trenches."

"I thought, the city couldn't be all bad."


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