PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A Philadelphia GOP ward leader has gone to court, trying to get longtime city councilman Frank Rizzo thrown off the primary ballot.

At issue: Rizzo’s enrollment in the lump sum city pension payout known as “DROP.”

Republican ward leader Matthew Wolfe argues that because Councilman Rizzo is signed up for DROP he has committed himself to retiring at the end of his term and to not seeking re-election.

“The law requires an elected official, including a city councilman, to make an irrevocable commitment to separate from city service and retire.  It’s very simple,” says Wolfe, who has now gone to court to get Rizzo dropped from the ballot for the May 17th primary.

Wolfe says this challenge could end up in the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court.

Councilman Rizzo referred questions to his attorneys. Late Monday afternoon, Rizzo attorney Christopher Warren said the lawsuit is “absolutely baseless” and has “no legal merit.” He said Wolfe had filed it for “political grandstanding purposes.”

Six current Council members are enrolled in DROP.  Four have elected not to run again.  Only Rizzo and Marian Tasco, a Democrat, are seeking another term.

Three years ago two other elected officials, Councilwoman Joan Krajewski and city commissioner Marge Tartaglione, were re-elected despite being in DROP.   They retired for a single day at the end of their term, collected their lump-sum pension payouts, and then were sworn in to new terms at the start of 2008.

Reported by KYW City Hall Bureau chief Mike Dunn.

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