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.

At this point, Schwarz’s agency, DPH, hadn’t received an audit from Settlement since 2005, a clear signal to give Freeman nothing more. Instead, 14 minutes later, Schwarz replied to Freeman, copying Donna Reed Miller, apologizing for any delay in funds: “I am sorry for this.” Later that day, Schwarz sent a longer reply to Freeman, promising three separate payments for various needs, totaling $119,500 that would be rushed into Settlement’s hands. “I hope this helps,” Schwarz wrote Freeman. “We will continue to push to get you paid.”

I called Schwarz in August, because I wondered why a distinguished pediatrician would grovel to a slumlord. He brought up the same defenses as Joyce Wilkerson and Pedro Ramos — nonprofits can be cash-strapped, we try to help them out, and what’s so bad about that?

I asked Schwarz about Settlement’s record of fiscal chaos and poor service. “The issue that we had with Germantown Settlement was not about quality of service,” he said. “It had to do with audits.” What about that August 2008 inspection report, though? The one that found “systemic” problems with Settlement’s SCOH program? Deficiencies in “safety-driven” standards? Did Schwarz read that inspection report before he went to bat for Freeman?

“Yes,” he said, tersely. “Yes, I knew about it.” Schwarz told me that even if there was a concern with one part of Settlement’s services, other services might be fine.

I asked another question: Did Schwarz know that the city had considered Settlement “high-risk” as far back as 2000?

Tom Sheaffer, Schwarz’s deputy, who was listening on the line, told me I was probably mistaken. I found the 2000 memo and read it to him.

There was a pause.

“Did you know about that?”

“That’s news,” Schwarz mumbled.

“I wasn’t aware of that,” Sheaffer said.

What about the charter school, then? Did they know about that?

“I think I read about it,” Sheaffer told me, as his boss listened in silence, “in the newspaper.”

THE CITY HAS NEVER  come out and condemned Emanuel Freeman. Even after everything that happened, there’s still a silence about this guy. The city abruptly cut off all contracts with Germantown Settlement in September ’09 because Philadelphia risked losing billions in federal stimulus funds if its own house wasn’t in financial order — those missing audits from Settlement, in other words, could have been an impediment to a federal funding stream. Only then was Settlement cut off.

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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.