Thirteen Parks & Rec employees lose jobs over pension ‘double-dipping’

Philadelphia City Hall Philadelphia City Hall. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Some city employees got a wake-up call this week after it was announced that 13 Parks and Recreation employees in violation of the city’s Home Rule charter, which prohibits them from working for other government agencies, have lost their jobs.

After an investigation that began in March, 13 employees received letters ‘a few months ago’ that they were in violation of city code, said Philadelphia Inspector General Amy Kurland. Several resigned immediately, others did not.

Those who did not resign were served with notices of 30 days suspension with intent to dismiss on the day after Christmas, according to Kurland.

“The charter has been enforced on and off over the years,” Kurland said. “In the past some employees were permitted to have dual employment, the departments knew about it and did nothing; other employees were not. Our view is that the charter should be applied evenly and across the board.”

These thirteen employees do not face any fines or criminal charges, but cannot continue as Parks and Recreation Department employees.

All thirteen were permanent, part-time city employees and had permanent full-time jobs with other government agencies.

They include ten full-time schoolteachers, two U.S. Postal Service workers and one Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office investigator.

“Our city’s underfunded municipal pension system is one of the biggest challenges Philadelphia faces,” Kurland stated in a press release announcing the terminations and resignations. “The dual-employment prohibition is an important tool to prevent people who already have a government job from looking to the city for a second pension.”

Kurland said they began this investigation in March at the request of the Parks and Rec department.

Additionally, the Inspector General’s office worked with Michael DiBerardinis, Deputy Mayor for Environmental and Community Resources, who sent a letter to Parks and Recreation staff over the summer reminding them of the Home Rule charter.

“If someone is a schoolteacher, they’re full-time for the School District, he or she is also accumulating a city pension. It’s sort of double dipping,” Kurland said.

Kurland acknowledged that the employees who lost work did not necessarily even know they were violating the charter.

“The provision was vague. During some mayoral administrations it was being enforced and during some it was not,” Kurland said, declining to cite specific administrations. “Some people believed that it was okay to have both jobs.”

The Office of the Inspector General also sought a legal opinion from the Law Department on whether the Home Rule charter applied to part-time employees. The Law Department found that it applies to all permanent city employees.

Now, Inspector General Kurland has asked City Controller Alan Butkovitz to assist in conducting a city-wide audit for other violations of the charter, she said.

The names of the former Parks and Recreation employees who lost their jobs have not been released.