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Worker Fired As Councilwoman Sidesteps Questions About Ethics Probe

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(Philadelphia city councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, far right, huddles with fellow councilmembers in City Council chambers.  Credit: Mike Dunn)

(Philadelphia city councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, far right, huddles with fellow councilmembers in City Council chambers. Credit: Mike Dunn)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – On Tuesday, Mayor Nutter fired a city worker implicated in a probe by the city’s Board of Ethics of City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown.

Nutter terminated John McDaniel, an airport employee who had also served as Reynold Brown’s 2011 campaign manager. The Ethics Board found that the campaign had committed numerous violations, including the use of campaign money to repay money loaned personally to the Councilwoman.

Nutter, in a statement, said he decided to fire McDaniel because of the multiple violations cited in the report.

The Ethic Board slapped Reynolds Brown with more than $20,000 in fines and also ordered repayment of more than $20,000, for numerous campaign finance and ethics violations (see previous story).

When she appeared this morning at a Council committee hearing (photo), Reynolds Brown faced reporters but would say nothing beyond repeating a carefully worded statement she had released the day before.

(Reynolds Brown:)  “If you reread my statement, I indicated that I take full responsibility for the actions of my campaign staff, and I take full responsibility for my own error in judgment.  I’ve taken corrective action in all of those areas, and deeply apologize to supporters and colleagues.”

She would not, though, answer any reporters’ questions about the circumstances of the reporting violations, nor of her personal use of campaign donations.

The councilwoman also would not answer questions about whether an attorney had advised her not to answer beyond her statement, or whether she had been contacted by the FBI.  The Philadelphia Daily News, quoting sources, reported that federal agents have been asking questions about Reynolds Brown in relation to an ongoing investigation of Chaka Fattah Jr., son of the congressman.

The Ethics Board found that Reynolds Brown had used campaign money to repay a loan made to her by Fattah Jr.

She has been on Council since 2000, and last year was elevated to the post of majority whip.  The majority leader, Councilman Curtis Jones, told reporters he has no problem with her remaining as whip.

“I don’t see where her leadership within Council, the body of Council, as whip, which is defined as the ability to garner votes, being able to move legislation, is impacted by the findings of the (ethics) board,” Jones said today.

Meantime, the political watchdog group Committee of 70 is calling for a law enforcement review of the matter involving Reynolds Brown.   In a statement, CEO Zack Stalberg said he is calling for such a review because the Ethics Board found that, quoting Stalberg, “contributions intended for her 2011 reelection were deposited into her personal bank account.”  The Committee of 70 statement did not say what law enforcement agency should review the case.

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