Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has divulged previously unreported gifts totaling more than $160,000, according to a published report.
The gifts, which range from personal to professional, included free roof repairs ($45,000), free airfare and lodging for vacations to Florid, Virginia, Las Vegas and the Dominican Republic ($20,800), travel expenses for an Eisenhower Fellowship Program in Australia and South Africa ($10,000), travel expenses from the Ministry of Justice of Thailand to teach leadership classes there, andcash gifts from friends, which included 76ers and Phillies tickets, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. These gifts were dated from 2010 through 2015.
According to Philly’s ethics code, “gifts” are classified as the following: “payment, subscription, advance, forbearance, rendering or deposit of money, services or anything of value, unless consideration of equal or greater value is received.”
Williams hasn’t commented on the report, save for a statement released through his 2017 reelection campaign that has called for greater transparency.
“I believe that it is very important to provide the citizens of Philadelphia with a greater foundation of trust in their elected officials,” the district attorney said in the statement reported by the Inquirer.
Williams failed to include these amounts as part of mandatory annual financial reports. As per ethics rules, city officials could pay as much as $1,000 for not reporting a gift, according to the paper.
Williams’ attorney, Samuel C. Stretton, told the Inky that penalties could be extensive if each unreported gift is considered a separate violation.
Strettoncalled Williams’ failure to report these gifts “a terrible mistake,” and said Williams “wasn’t paying attention” to the reporting requirements set forth by the city and state.
The lawyer is looking to negotiate penalties with state and local ethics boards.
It’s been a rough couple of yearsfor Williams, as he faces reelection amid dwindling support and the atmosphere of corruption.
Williams has a 71 percent disapproval rating based on his job performance, according to a PoliticsPA poll released at the end of July.
Trouble seemed to begin in 2015, when the Inquirer reported that theFBI and IRS were probing Williams’ use of campaign funds.The district attorney alsofound himself tangled in the ongoing case against Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, whose former prosecutor left Harrisburg and joined Williams’ team soon after Kane took office.
Philadelphia Magazine‘s David Gambacortareported in July that amid Williams’ bid for reelection, the district attorney has lost a crucial support group: the Fraternal Order of Police.
John McNesby, the union’s president, said his members will either back another candidate or sit out the election altogether.
“When you’re a public figure, you have people looking at you from all over the place. They expect you to lead. You can’t indulge in some of the things that he does, because it’s a recipe for disaster,”McNesby told Philly Mag. “He’s a nice guy, but you just don’t know what he’s thinking half the time.”