District Attorney Seth Williams Won’t Seek Re-Election For Third Term Following Ethics Violations

PHILADELPHIA (CBS)– Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced Friday morning that he is not seeking re-election for a third term.

“I have made the very difficult decision not to seek re-election for a third term,” the two-term Democrat said.

Investigators began looking into Williams’ personal and political finances in August 2015, finding a series of ethics controversies, including not disclosing $160,500 in gifts and income. That included $45,000 in home repairs.

Last month, the Philadelphia Board of Ethics imposed its largest fine ever, $62,000, on Williams for a number of violations, including failing to disclose gifts and sources of income and accepting gifts from prohibited sources.

Williams said his decision to accept gifts and not report them “brought much shame.”

“For this, I will always hold deep regret in my heart,” Williams said, adding that he “no longer wants to stand in the way” of the department.

The district attorney said his financial decisions “cast an unnecessary shadow” on his office.

Ethics Board Hits Philly DA With Its Largest Penalty Ever

Mayor Jim Kenney told CBS 3’s Natasha Brown he respected Williams’ decision.

“His analysis was that for his best interest, the interest of the citizens and the office of district attorney, he decided not to run and respect his decision and wish him well and thank him for the work he’s done,” said Kenney.

With Williams out of the district attorney’s race in May, a crowded field of candidates seek to replace him as five Democrats and one Republican look to fill the seat.

“I think it’s important for the office to move past the scandal that’s been going on for the last year. I think it’s an important day for us in Philadelphia to turn the page,” said Democratic candidate Rich Negrin.

“It’s certainly difficult to be district attorney when you admittedly don’t have the trust of the city, but at least we now know this nightmare will end and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Democratic candidate Joe Khan.

The ethics board said Williams has through 2022 to pay off the penalty, owing $10,000 annually starting in 2018. The deal also includes what’s called a re-opener agreement. The ethics board tells CBS 3 should it learn of additional violations, it can amend the deal.

Williams himself triggered the investigation, last summer, when he amended his financial statements for 2010 through 2015, disclosing $160,000 in previously unreported gifts and income.

A spokesman at the time said they were from close family and friends. The gifts included a $45,000 roof on his Overbrook home, plane trips, vacations, suits and watches.

The board found ten more gifts and payments Williams still had not disclosed:

In 2010 — a gift of $2,500 from Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel, LLP
–a gift of $3,536.59 from William R. Miller, IV
–a gift of $500 from William R. Miller, IV
— income from Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer Toddy, P.C.

In 2011 –a gift of $1,000 from Widener University
— income from Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer Toddy, P.C.

In 2013 — a gift of $7,000 from Mohammad N. Ali
— a gift of $500 from Monumental Baptist Church
— a gift of $630 from Orlando Cummings, Jr.

In 2015 — income from Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer Toddy, P.C.

In addition, the Board found 20 gifts from prohibited sources, “individuals who had a financial interest that the District Attorney was able to substantially affect through official action. They included criminal defense attorneys who were handling cases prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office, as well as subordinate employees and contractors of the District Attorney’s Office.”

In addition to the record fine, Williams will pay the city $2,840, the value of the five largest of the prohibited gifts.

Those were:
— $690 in Phillies and 76ers tickets from Scott DiClaudio, a criminal defense attorney who was handling cases prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office
–$750 in Visa gift cards from Mr. DiClaudio
–$200 in cash from Pierre Gomez, a subordinate employee of the District Attorney’s Office
–$200 in cash from Daniel Kearney, a subordinate employee of the District Attorney’s Office
–$1,000 in lodging from Richard Hoy, a criminal defense attorney who was handling cases prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office.

Ethics board executive director Shane Creamer Creamer notes that the settlement contains two novel elements. One is a stipulated judgement.

“It enables the city to pursue his personal assets if there is a default in the payments,” he says.

The other is a re-opener clause, which allows the Board to re-open the investigation, says Creamer “if we discover other violations that we’re not currently aware of or if it turns out any of the disclosures made so far are inadequate.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that federal authorities are investigating his use of campaign funds.

Creamer declined comment.

He also said the election is of no concern to the board.

“We’re concerned with making sure the D.A.’s held accountable for the violations and that he complies with disclosure requirements.”

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