For local pol, dropping DROP not so easy to do

When City Councilman Frank DiCicco enrolled in the controversial DROP program two years ago, he made the “irrevocable” decision to retire. That’s what he thought he’d do, but then he changed his mind. Now, it appears that DROP will be the primary issue of his heated re-election campaign.

He introduced a bill Thursday that would allow city employees to leave DROP before collecting a pension windfall. While critics said it’s all about self-preservation, DiCicco said that’s not so.

“People out there are angry. They’re unemployed and don’t make the salary I make,” he said. “Maybe the DROP issue will resonate with voters. I’m hopeful people look at all the things I’ve done my 15-plus years of service and say, ‘This guy just changed his mind and isn’t looking to double-dip.’”

DiCicco argued that he voluntarily gives 10 percent of his salary back to the city and hasn’t used a city car for seven years. He suggested he’d work for no salary (instead of his current $118,000 a year) if he took the $424,646 DROP payment.

The Feb. 15 or 16 hearings will examine the legality of DiCicco’s proposal, which Pension Board Vice Chairman Bill Rubin said is a misnomer. He said changing DROP requirements would violate IRS guidelines and would open up the city to lawsuits from those who had to retired even if they changed their minds.

Opponents speak

Several of DiCicco’s opponents for the 1st District seat chimed in about the DROP bill Thursday. Their collective message: It’s less about goodwill and more about political survival.

“The bill is clever but it doesn’t address the city’s serious DROP problem. It only addresses DiCicco’s serious re-election problem. .” –Vern Anastasio, Democrat.

“The guy is a consummate flip-flopper; he’s for casinos, against them; for spot zoning, now a champion of zoning reform; for DROP, now against it. DiCicco ought to be addressing the needs of the city.” –Jeff Hornstein, Democrat

“It’s clearly a question of trust. He indicated an irrevocable intention to return, so he should retire. You can’t unring a bell. This is a political smokescreen and I think the voters and citizens will see right through it. Four [councilmember] leaving is a sea change. We need more of it, and DROP is the issue.” –Joe Grace, Democrat

“It’s a not-so-thinly veiled effort to hang onto his job. It’s wrong, immoral, highway robbery. Just because you’ve made something legal doesn’t make it right. Every Philadelphia voter should remember this in May and November.” –Lou Lanni, Republican

“It’s a CYA reaction so he can run again and say, ‘I’m not actually taking the money.’ I’m not sure if that’s going to be enough to deflect the public outrage over DROP.” –Michael Boyle, Democrat who planned to run but recently decided against it.