Veto of clerk firing goes to AG
The employment status of a municipal court clerk is awaiting a ruling by the state Attorney General after last Tuesday’s meeting of the Philadelphia Mayor and Board of Aldermen.
Was she fired or indefinitely suspended without pay? City leaders are seeking the opinion to sort out the matter after the board voted to fire her last month and the mayor failed to file a formal veto in writing within the 10 days prescribed by law.
In their Aug. 18 meeting, the mayor and board came out of an executive session and, according to the minutes, voted 3-2 to dismiss Court Clerk Marilyn Jackson for improper handling of the office, effective immediately.
Ward 2 Alderman Jim Fulton made the motion and Ward 1 Alderman Joe Tullos seconded it. Ward 3 Ronnie Jenkins voted in favor of the motion.
Alderman-at-Large Leroy Clemons and Ward 5 Alderman Casey Henson voted against.
Mayor James Young said at the time he would veto the action.
At last Tuesday’s Oct. 25 meeting, the board voted to accept the minutes from the Oct. 18 meeting where Jackson was terminated.
After the vote, Mayor Young brought up his veto. Tullos said it was too late. The aldermen had not received formal notification of the veto. The minutes had been approved, the point was mute, the termination stood, he said.
City Attorney Robert Thomas said the veto should have been filed before the meeting within 10 days along with a written explanation as to why he was vetoing the vote.
Mayor Young said, “It was filed and here is the letter of explanation.”
“I didn’t have it prior to this meeting,” Tullos said. “You had 10 days. It is just being handed to us. It is too late.”
Tullos asked Thomas it this was correct. Thomas read a copy of the statute.
“It says it (the veto) shall be filed within 10 days to the municipal clerk stating the objections,” Thomas said.
“The meeting has already started,” Tullos said. “This should have been brought up in unfinished business. The board has now voted to pass the minutes.”
Mayor Young said he thought they had to vote on the veto.
“No sir,” Thomas said. “The only vote they would have to take is if you did veto it and they tried to override the veto. That would have to be voted on.”
“It’s on record that I vetoed it in the last meeting,” Young said.
“You can’t veto it except in writing,” Thomas said. “You announced it but the rest has to be done in writing.”
Young collected his thoughts for a few moments.
“Since that was done, I am going to abide by the law,” Young said. “The response to my veto is accidentally done.”
Young then promised to veto the consent agenda, which includes the minutes.
A recording of the meeting shows aldermen actually did not vote to pass the consent agenda, only the minutes.
Fulton provided details in open session as to why the employee was being terminated.
“Just for the record, we had an issue that was brought to our attention that an employee brought up issues of workforce violence, mishandling the public’s funds and other things,” Fulton said. “The camera in the court clerk’s office was not turned … knocked out by a lightning strike.”
The camera in question is located in the court clerk’s office and is supposed to stay on 24/7. Apparently, the camera had been out for several months. Fulton and the others felt it should have been reported immediately and repaired. They faulted Jackson for not reporting it.
A long discussion followed. Henson, who had seconded the motion to accept the minutes asked if she could withdraw her motion. She added she did not support the firing of the clerk because it was all based on hearsay.
Aldermen moved on to the rest of the agenda business. When finished, they went into executive session to discuss several issues, including the court clerk’s status.
During the executive session, City. Attorney Thomas was asked to send the matter to the Attorney General’s office for a clarification: If the mayor vetoes the minutes of the previous meeting, where would the termination stand?