By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — An arbitrator has struck down the Nutter administration’s decision to fire about a dozen part-time workers who held other jobs because, as the arbitrator affirmed, the city had been aware all along of their other employment.
Thirteen part-time recreation department workers were shown the door earlier this year after city inspector-general Amy Kurland found that their other employment — most of them with the Philadelphia school district — violated the City Charter prohibition on double-dipping.
But the workers’ attorney, Sam Spear, says the Recreation Department had hired them with full knowledge of those jobs, and in fact because of their experience.
“Nothing was illicit — everything was out in the open,” Spear tells KYW Newsradio. “The employees never hid anything when they were hired. Every year the employees filled out a form and said, ‘I work for the School District,’ and it was approved. Management officials testified in the case and said, ‘Yeah, we were aware of this.’ ”
Nine of the workers filed a grievance, and now arbitrator Anthony Visco has order those nine reinstated with back pay.
“(Visco) says basically the city only has itself to blame,” said Spear. “You can enforce this (charter) prohibition in the future merely by not hiring people. But once you hire people and accept their situations, you know what you’re getting yourself into. So it’s fundamentally unfair to turn around and fire them after you’ve accepted the benefit of their service for years.”
City solicitor Shelley Smith said the arbitrator’s decision is under review.
The matter prompted some controversy earlier this year when critics argued that some top Nutter administration officials themselves might be double-dipping because they carry two titles. “It should not just be applied punitively against people who are making low salaries while there’s a different set of rules for people who are at the top,” said one critic, city controller Alan Butkovitz. At that time, Solicitor Smith said the use of multiple titles for top aides is legal because their salaries are only derived from one of the titles — “deputy mayor” — which is not limited by the charter.
The fired workers, she said, were drawing salaries from both positions, which is prohibited.