Four watchdog groups seek records for city official

Online petition struggles to oust city commissioners
City Paper

Four government watchdog groups say they want to know what, exactly, City Commissioner Anthony Clark does to earn his $130,000 per year salary.

The groups, Philadelphia 3.0, The Committee of Seventy, Philly Set Go, and the 5th Square PAC, announced Tuesday that they filed a right-to-know request seeking Clark’s communication with staff, along with records of his attendance and day-to-day activities.

Clark, who sits on the three-person commission that oversees city elections, has been the subject of significant criticism in recent months over work habits and Philadelphia City Paper reported in October 2014 that Clark hadn’t voted since 2011.

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“He doesn’t seem to show up at the office or the polls,” said Committee of Seventy director David Thornburg.

Clark had two run-ins with the City Board of Ethics this year that led to settlement agreements. The first stemmed from an attempt to secure a raise for his brother, who works for the city commission. The second was over a failure to report a campaign contribution.

The right-to-know request is somewhat significant for groups associated with young professionals working in city politics.

While the Committee of Seventy has been around for 111 years, Philadelphia 3.0 and Philly Set Go were both established this year with an eye toward getting millennials engaged in city politics. Both are non-partisan, and have endorsed both Republicans and Democrats in the upcoming election. The 5th Square, meanwhile focuses on urban planning — a topic that has gained a lot of traction among young professionals. Members of 5th Square are also behind the petition to close portions of Center City streets to cars next summer.

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“We’re very conscious of looking to the future and looking to partner with groups of young and emerging leaders to tackle the problems in front of us,” Thornburg said.

Alison Perelman, of Philadelphia 3.0, says they want to go beyond elections.

“What we are building toward is being an organization that could work toward government throughout the election cycle.” Perelman said. “We want to start moving the ball on issues we think are important.”

Clark, according to the city commission staffers, was not in the office to respond to the group’s allegations.

Perelman hopes the request for records is fulfilled ahead of the November election, in which Clark is on the ballot.

Fred Voigt, the city commission’s right-to-know officer, said the office will respond to the request for records in the ordinary course of business.