New Philly sheriff promises accountability

Sheriff Jewell Williams

January 10, 2012 2:53:31 PM PST
There's a new sheriff in Philadelphia and he's vowing to restore credibility to a department that's been rocked by controversy and shady dealings.

"Right now my job is to clean the sheriff's office up, to make sure we pass the 'smell test' on everything we do," said Sheriff Jewell Williams.

Williams is on the move, promising he will continue the reform of the department's real estate unit that began after longtime sheriff John Green unexpectedly resigned.

In the wake of that resignation came a highly critical audit of Green's office, claiming widespread financial irregularities.

Vowing an open administration, Williams on Tuesday allowed news cameras into a sheriff's sale - a first, he says. He also instituted a ban on department employees from bidding on foreclosed properties - something auditors alleged.

"The opportunity for something being done illegally is there and we don't want to create it," said Williams.

Williams is a North Philadelphia ward leader and former state representative. He says his goal in the sheriff's office is to end sloppy and questionable practices of the past that lead to illegal activities.

On Monday, as part of an ongoing federal probe, three men pleaded guilty to a $400,000 scam of the office in 2009. Williams says new safeguards are in place.

"That will never happen again. We have a different process on how checks are being handled," said Williams.

Williams is still dealing with some after-effects, like an official-looking website that was left over from the time of Green - it belongs to a company that raised red flags for auditors. Williams wants a court to order the company to put up a disclaimer.

Williams says the department also needs a computer system to do work that is still largely done by hand.