Audit: Philly’s Brownout Policy Didn’t Save Money — It Cost the City Millions

FaceMePLS | Wikimedia Commons

FaceMePLS | Wikimedia Commons

The Philadelphia Fire Department’s now-defunct “brownout” policy failed to deliver on one big promise: that it would save the city money on overtime costs.

That’s one of the conclusions of a new audit by City Controller Alan Butkovitz, which was released the same day that Mayor Jim Kenney ended the policy instituted in 2010 by his predecessor, Michael Nutter, during the dire budget years of the Great Recession.

“Despite the PFD’s assertions that the brownout policy would lead to reduced overtime costs of $3.8 million, overtime for firefighters actually climbed from $15.7 million in fiscal year 2010 to $34.2 million in fiscal year 2014,” the audit reports.

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Detective: Philly Police Retaliated Against Me for Whistleblowing

Philadelphia Police Headquarters, aka "The Roundhouse." | Beyond My Ken | Wikimedia Commons

Philadelphia Police Headquarters, aka “The Roundhouse.” | Beyond My Ken | Wikimedia Commons

The city has settled a lawsuit with a Philadelphia Police detective who claims his superiors retaliated against him for blowing the whistle on civil rights violations within the department.

Detective Matthew Maurizio filed the suit in spring 2014, claiming he had been punished because he told his superiors about the practice of “icing” — holding arrestees in jail without the probable cause or charges required to do so, in violation of their rights.

The practice is used to shake loose information from the arrestees, Maurizio said in his suit. (See the complaint below.)

“Icing is to induce the held person to speak, to make the person provide a statement about matters the police are criminally investigating, to coerce the held person to speak when the person did not wish to speak to police or would not fully speak with police,” Maurizio’s lawyer, Brian Puricelli, wrote in the lawsuit.

The department, in a written statement to Philly Mag, denied the icing allegations. Read more »

Morning Headlines: Kathleen Kane Survived One Ouster Attempt; The Next Has Already Begun

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane looks on before newly elected members of the Pennsylvania Legislature are sworn in, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Republicans who control both the Senate and House picked up additional seats in the November election. In the House, Republicans outnumber Democrats 119 to 84 and in the Senate, 30 to 20. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Good morning Philadelphia. Here’s what you need to know today.

The Pennsylvania Senate fell short of ousting Kathleen Kane Wednesday. Now it’s the House’s turn to try.

The Senate fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to boot Kane, the attorney general who faces criminal charges for allegedly leaking secret grand jury information. Even as that attempt failed, PennLive reports, the House voted to empower a subcommittee to investigate whether articles of impeachment should be brought against her. The investigation could be complete by spring — and, if warranted, prompt an impeachment trial back in the Senate later this year. Kane’s spokesman says the process is “premature,” and that legislators should let the legal process play out. Her trial on the criminal charges is scheduled for August. Read more »

State Could Ban Cold Medicine Sales to Minors

Wikimedia Commons | MarkBuckawicki

Wikimedia Commons | MarkBuckawicki

The war on cold medicine continues.

State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, a Republican who serves parts of Bucks and Montgomery counties, told colleagues this week he will sponsor a bill that bans over-the-counter sales of certain cold medicines to children under the age of 18.

The medicines — Robitussin, Tylenol Cough & Cold, and NyQuil — contain an ingredient, dextromethorphan, that helps suppress coughs. It can also help you get high.

“Unfortunately, some teens are abusing DXM by consuming these medicines in large amounts,” Greenleaf said in a Tuesday memo to colleagues, using a shorthand, DXM, to identify the drug. He said a recent study shows a third of teens use the medicine to get high. Read more »

Wharton Profs: Make Retirement Planning Simpler

iStock.com/XiXinXing

iStock.com/XiXinXing

There’s a scene in the old Robin Williams movie, Moscow on the Hudson, in which Williams’ character — a newly minted Russian immigrant, freshly defected from Communism — goes grocery shopping for the first time. On his list: Buy coffee. Sounds like a simple task, right?

Not for Williams’ character. When he arrives in the coffee aisle, the poor man is overwhelmed by the endless array of brands he has to choose from. “Coffee, coffee, COFFEE!” he shrieks, collapsing in a panic attack.

According to research by a pair of Wharton professors, Donald B. Keim and Olivia S. Mitchell, that experience may not be all that different from choosing a 401(k) retirement plan. Read more »

Morning Headlines: Is Christie Quitting the Presidential Campaign?

chris-christie-new-hampshire-940x540

Good morning, Philadelphia. Some roads are a bit slick from overnight snow showers, and some area schools are starting late today. Here’s what else you need to know today:

Chris Christie’s presidential dream is all but dead.

Remember when the GOP nomination seemed to be there for Chris Christie’s taking? That was 2012, of course, but Christie begged off then and waited to run until this year. It didn’t work out so well: He finished sixth in New Hampshire’s Republican primary on Tuesday. The Courier-Post reports Christie sounds like he’s ready to end his campaign. “Mary Pat and I spoke tonight, and we’ve decided we’re going to go home to New Jersey tomorrow, and we’re going to take a deep breath and see what the final results are,” Christie said Tuesday night. “That should allow us to make a decision about how we move from here. We’ll go home to New Jersey tomorrow morning. We’ll make a decision on our next step forward based on the results.’’ Read more »

Council Looks to Create a Commission on Youth Gun Violence

Photo by iStock.com/Rex Wholster

Photo by iStock.com/Rex Wholster

The Philadelphia City Council appears ready to ask voters to approve a new commission to seek answers to the city’s ongoing problem with gun violence.

All 17 members of the Council have signed on as co-sponsors to a new resolution, introduced last week, which would create a Commission on Youth Gun Violence. Philadelphia voters would be asked to amend the city charter to create the commission.  Read more »

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