New councilman facing controversy

January 3, 2008 8:55:11 PM PST
A man elected to Philadelphia City Council will be sworn in on Monday under a cloud of controversy. After an investigation that lasted the better part of a year, the city's inspector general's office has essentially found that taxpayer dollars were being used to benefit Councilman-elect Curtis Jones after he left the agency to run for city council.

"Curtis Jones Jr. used, in many ways, the Philadelphia Commercial Development Corporation as a line of credit after he had resigned and while he was running for city council," said City Inspector General Seth Williams.

The 300 page investigative report by the inspector general's office found that three months before Jones resigned to run for city council, he was given an unprecedented severance check that amounted to $30,000 before taxes. The check was not approved or voted on by the entire board of directors of the PCDC, according to the report.

"It appears as only two members of the board voted or were aware of the severance package," said Williams.

The report also found that the PCDC paid for a political banner for Jones at a cost of $380 dollars. He was also allegedly allowed to use one of the agency's leased vehicles, after leaving the agency.

Authorities added that the PCDC even paid Jones' insurance bills and parking tickets. Williams said Jones later paid back the agency after learning of the investigation, but there's more.

"This in many ways is the tip of the iceberg," he said.

Williams said more serious allegations that Jones used PCDC furniture and plasma tv screens for his campaign were forwarded to officials at Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Attorney's office.

No one answered the door at Jones' home in West Philadelphia. His staff issued a statement about the findings, which in part said "It does not appear to indicate any wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Jones. Councilman-elect Curtis Jones Jr.'s reputation as a respected and innovative public servant is intact."

Williams said this case points to what can happen at quasi-city agencies like PCDC which have little or no government oversight.

"There are many quasi-city agencies in the city of Philadelphia that need and require additional oversight so that we can assure that taxpayer money is being spent correctly," said Williams.

Calls to PCDC officials seeking comment were not returned. There was also no comment from the Mayor's office regarding these latest developments.

Jones is due to be sworn into office as councilman of the 4th district on Monday.