Power: Fumo, After the Fall

The most powerful politician in Philadelphia is heading to jail. In an exclusive interview, Vince Fumo talks about the agony of his trial, and why he still doesn’t know what he did that was so wrong.

WHEN VINCE FUMO replays the trial, he’s back on the witness stand, being cross-examined by prosecutor John Pease. Pease pounds away at the practice of Fumo employees routinely doing personal and political favors for the boss during office hours at Fumo’s headquaters on Tasker Street. The discussion bogs down on the finer points of state Ethics Commission rulings, and whether an employee doing campaign work in the basement of Fumo’s district office, where constituent work is done, should have gone upstairs to the second floor, where a computer and phone were earmarked for campaign work, to do the boss a favor.

Fumo: “Oh, I probably should have told her to go to the second floor, rather than do it in the basement, yes.”

Pease: “Because it’s a violation of state law for you to have your employee using state facilities, state equipment, to work on campaigns, correct?”

Fumo: “It is, it is. It’s also a violation to spit on the sidewalk, although I don’t know that it’s enforced.”  

“That was a little flippant,” Fumo now concedes. During a break at the trial, Fumo’s lawyer, Dennis Cogan, was overheard screaming at Fumo in a back room. It got so loud, a court employee showed up to tell them to pipe down. “He killed me,” Fumo says of Cogan.

So did jurors. When Fumo made that crack, juror Greg Brecker says, “All the money he was paying Cogan … he might as well have flushed it down the toilet.”

THE REST OF his life may be going to hell, but Vince Fumo is happy with his love life. “Carolyn’s been terrific,” he says about the woman he’s been with for the past two years. “She’s soft and sweet and just a wonderful person.”

Zinni’s a 51-year-old single mother of three sons who looks at least a decade younger and owns a family dress shop in Springfield. She first saw Fumo on Passyunk Avenue more than a decade ago at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. “He was leading a crowd singing ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ … waving his hands like a maestro,” she says.

Fumo first saw Zinni at a dinner in Atlantic City, when she was dating Philadelphia City Councilman Frank DiCicco, a Fumo ally. He thought she was gorgeous, and years after DiCicco and Zinni were no longer dating, he spoke with DiCicco, who called her to see if she would go out with Fumo.     

“I think we both hit it at the right time,” Fumo says of the relationship. He was up-front about his legal problems. “He didn’t hold back; he told me what was going on,” Zinni remembers. “He’s honorable, and I’m very much attracted to that. He’s reckless with his honesty. He tells me too much information. … He’s a man of his word, and he’s very open. His openness has been mistaken for arrogance.”