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.