DROP: Three Drips Left
No sooner had I challenged the DROP squad to run for re-election so we could throw them out of office, than the squad’s leader decided to keep her promise to retire. City Council President Anna Verna, 79, retires with dignity … and with a $584,778 lump-sum payment courtesy of the DROP program. But she is retiring in January, as she promised to do when she signed up for the program a little over three years ago.
DROP stands for Deferred Retirement Option Plan. It allows city workers the chance to start receiving pension payments with the “irrevocable” promise that they will retire in four years. The deferred money is then put into a fund and paid out in a lump sum.
[SIGNUP]I would hope Verna’s decision shames the remaining three members of the DROP Squad to do the same. Councilwoman Marian Tasco has not announced if she is going to run or keep her promise to retire. She stands to collect $478,057 from the city’s pension fund in DROP cash. If she chooses to run for re-election, she could take advantage of a loophole that allows her to retire for a day, collect her money, and then un-retire when she is sworn in; thus, siphoning money from an already depleted pension fund that city employees count on for retirement.
Philadelphia is waiting to see if Tasco decides to take the money and run, or follow Anna Verna’s lead and take the money and retire with some dignity.
The other two members of the DROP Squad are despicably defending their decisions to run for re-election. I am especially disappointed in Frank Rizzo who has been defending his right to grab $194,517 and keep working. Rizzo points out that two city solicitors have approved participation in DROP by city officials. Okay, fine. Now ask them if they approve of you taking the money and ignoring your “irrevocable” agreement to retire. I am guessing they would strongly disapprove of this ability to treat the city pension fund like a rich man’s ATM.
I like Frank Rizzo, and his name has an honored place in Philadelphia history. My hope is that he re-considers his decision. If he runs, he will never be able to rid himself of the stench of DROP.
The last member of the DROP squad is Frank DiCicco, who has been almost comical in his desperation to cling onto his job. DiCicco first promised to give his $424,646 in DROP money back if he is re-elected. Then he said he would give up his salary of $117,991 a year and his government car — if he is re-elected and keeps the DROP money. Now he says he will introduce legislation to allow all DROP employees to revoke their decision. Would he have done any of this, had DROP not been exposed as a get-rich-quick scheme for council members? Doubtful.
DiCicco should soon realize that the only way out of the mess he got himself into when he signed up for DROP in January 2008 is to keep his “irrevocable” promise to retire in January 2012.
Anna Verna became the fourth council member enrolled in DROP to announce retirement. Joan Krajewski, Jack Kelly and Donna Reed Miller also decided not to run again. That leaves Tasco, Rizzo and DiCicco as the three holdouts.
Voter anger over DROP is high. If the three run for re-election, it will reach a fever pitch. DROP will become the ONLY issue of the campaign. Tasco, Rizzo and DiCicco face a future of either being thrown out of office by voters or a future in council forever haunted by DROP.
The only way out is to keep their word and retire with the rest of the DROP Squad.
****Thank you for your response to the Drop Drop Rally. I am in the process of going through all of the emails. The rally is planned for the spring, although it might not be necessary if the last three DROP council members retire. If you want to participate, write to DropDropRally@gmail.com.