Emanuel Freeman: The Man Who Duped City Hall

Freeman, a.k.a. The Buddha, was supposedly rebuilding Germantown. And even though project after project failed, political heavyweights—from Ed Rendell to Bob Brady to Michael Nutter—kept giving him our money. Lots and lots of our money.

Time and time again, Miller took Freeman at his word. She didn’t challenge him. And almost no one was willing to challenge Miller. Not even in the summer of 2008, which is the pivot point in the Settlement saga — the moment when it stops being a troubling historical yarn about race and real estate and becomes something way more raw.

In the summer of 2008, Elders Place I and II were baking. The hallways were hot. Some of the air conditioners were broken. Low-income old people lived there. On August 1st, HUD inspectors found rodent infestations, leaky roofs, and either “warm” or “extremely hot” hallways at both Elders I and II, plus a broken fire alarm system at Elders II; two months later, they went back, and their report noted problems with mold, ancient pumps, illegal wiring, water leaks, a lack of hot water, a “very hot” hallway, and trash. HUD wrote Freeman, to alert him to these dangerous problems.

Meanwhile, the social-agency side of Settlement was falling apart, too. On August 25th, an inspector with the city’s Department of Human Services began a spot check on Settlement’s “Services to Children in their Own Homes” program, which was designed to keep children in their own homes and prevent foster-care placement where possible. The city paid Settlement more than $460,000 on its SCOH contract alone in 2008. Here’s what the city inspector, who recommended that the city shut the program down, wrote in the report:

This agency seems to be able only to provide minimal social services to the families. They are deficient in most of the required standards, many of which are safety-driven. There were months and months of contacts notes missing. The agency blamed this problem on workers who were no longer employed with the agency. It appeared to this evaluator that many of the problems were systemic; meaning that the agency had no real or concrete understanding of what was required of them.

ONE CITY AGENCY actually followed procedure and cut off Freeman’s funding, despite his repeated requests. On November 17, 2008, the director of housing, Deborah McColloch, rejected a request from Freeman for $40,000, pointing out in a letter to him that his audits were still delinquent, and that Settlement and its housing company owed outstanding payroll taxes to the city, state and federal governments totaling approximately $800,000. “I am sorry I cannot approve your request,” McColloch wrote.

On December 9th, Freeman wrote to Don Schwarz, head of the city’s Department of Public Health. Schwarz is a distinguished pediatrician, and a senior Nutter administration official. Freeman e-mailed Schwarz asking for help in getting an emergency payment of $133,855 from the Department of Human Services.

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  • Alexander

    This article was superbly written, informative and revealing in the simple fact that Philly remains a very corrupt and close-knit city. And we thought that we had progressed from here!

    • Shirley Harrison

      It’s unfortunate, that the old regime will remain in power, hidden by a maze of corruption. and maleficent cronies. Emanuel took advantage of the trust, friendship, and respect, a neighborhood had for the Freeman family. He was raised by gospel singers and Pastors. In the same neighborhood he raped and pillaged.

  • Maxine

    I absolutely cannot believe the audacity of the public officials in this city. Here it is the City owes small business owners Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars for legitimate work that was done, and t

  • Stephanie

    I knew Emanuel “way back when” when community voter registration and self-determination were waves of the times. Having spent much of my adult life away from Philly, I didn’t know Emanuel had morphed from respected 1970s activist to greedy profiteer. I am so disappointed.

  • Lauren

    I read with great disgust the article “Emanuel Freeman: The Man Who Duped City Hall” earlier this week in Philadelphia Magazine. I’m infuriated at the waste, mismanagement, seeming corruption, and overall disregard for the residents—by not only Freeman, but also by the Northwest’s elected leaders – who are supposed to have their constituents’ best interest at heart.
    Freeman received $100 million over the last 20 years via grants, tax breaks and low-interest loans and what do we have to show for it? A walk through Germantown is appalling: downtrodden buildings, trash on the streets, failing businesses, underperforming schools, crime, empty lots. Is THIS what $100 million buys?
    Where would our community be today if that money was put to proper use? We could have better schools; thriving businesses; help for mothers and children; community organizations that actually HELP the community. In short, Germantown could be—and should be– a shining example for other neighborhoods in the city. What a wasted opportunity—especially for our youth.
    While Councilwoman Donna Reid Miller seems to have gotten the majority of the scrutiny, I demand to know where our other Northwest elected officials stand on this. My State Representative, John Myers, should be as infuriated as I…

  • Lauren

    yet so far we’ve not heard a single word from Myers on Freeman, Miller or their financial rape of Germantown. In fact, Jason Fagone’s article indicates that Myers is in bed with Miller, Freeman and others who’ve literally robbed the community. He writes, that Myers was part of “Settlement’s freshman class” and “had graduated to positions of real power in the city, thanks in part to Freeman’s connections.”
    And what’s more, despite everything, Freeman still believes he has a pipeline and working relationship with our elected officials. He wants Miller’s assistance to “embark on a significant venture” located behind the failing school he wasted taxpayer money on. What’s wrong with this picture and where does it end?
    It’s time that we demand better. Better for our children, better for working parents struggling to get by, better for our local businesses, better for our community as a whole. It’s time we demand more from our leaders. I am a professional working woman, a mother, a wife, a taxpaying resident and I now accept the challenge of being a community activist. I urge others to stand with me in a fight to demand that the funds invested in our district are put to…

  • Lauren

    good use and to begin to reinvest in Northwest Philadelphia — this time for real.

    Lauren Anderson Youngblood
    Community Activist

  • Steve

    The LAST thing we need is another Youngblood in office. She is just as corrupt as the others in this article, and sold her district away just to stay in office! Sorry, we will fight tooth and nail to make sure that NO Youngblood ever makes in in office again!

  • Pat

    If this article is of interest to you and you oppose the pillaging that has taken place in this great Philadelphia neighborhood, please check out a new Face Book page called Battle for Germantown and become a friend.

  • Enough’s Enough

    I observed Freeman and Settlement in action while working on site but for another employer. A dazed and confused finance wing, late paychecks, the hopeless charter school, and both Mr. and Mrs. Freeman’s aloof manner and fancy cars- all as bad as the article describes. I hope Freeman’s ride is over and other leaders can step up in Germantown.

  • Rozalind

    You won’t hear from John Myers because he was a part of it as well. He sits on the Board of Germantown Settlement and his wife was on their payroll for quite some time. So you should be appalled with him as well. Every last one of them needs to payback all the money they stole from the city and state. LISC had better take a look at their executive director as well, he’s the former COO of Germantown Settlement.