PHILADELPHIA—Today, City Councilmember Helen Gym (At Large) issued the following statement in response to Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s audits of the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA).
“At its heart, the Philadelphia Parking Authority is a public trust, and as a public trust, one of its foremost duties is not only to the City of Philadelphia but to the school children of this city. The allocation of resources to fund our schools, teachers, textbooks, and technology is not an optional expense: it’s a promise and obligation. Instead, under state control, the PPA has functioned as a toxic cesspool of abuse, political patronage, and failed promises; they are bandits who robbed our School District of many millions of dollars. What we heard today from the Auditor General is something education advocates had suspected for over a decade, but could not fully prove.
“Back in 2007, I was proud to join parents and education advocates who led the campaign to force the PPA to finally put its profits toward the schools, and demand a full performance management audit of the agency. In September 2016, I renewed the call for that performance audit, and I commend Auditor General DePasquale for being the first to fully embrace this effort.
“This audit lays out in no uncertain terms just how much the agency has shortchanged our schools and the city’s children in recent years. While city school principals and teachers suffered without a contract, while school children went without music and art, the PPA’s waste, fraud, and abuse has caused significant and measurable harm to one of our most important entities – our public schools.
“Additionally, at a time when millions of women are coming forward to say “me too,” the audit even more clearly reveals how the PPA’s leadership covered for a sexual predator, failed to protect its employees, refused to hold an abuser accountable, and went so far as to use taxpayer dollars to silence a survivor of Vince Fenerty’s workplace harassment and violence. Complicity in rampant sexual harassment and abuse is only the most grotesque indication of the total unaccountability of this agency in the 13 years since the state takeover.
“It’s important to remember that it was parents and education advocates who forced the PPA to finally deliver millions of dollars to schools. It was courageous women coming forward who finally forced out an executive director described as an ‘unchecked tyrant’ by the Auditor General. At any point, the state could have taken stock and shifted course, but decided not to, opting instead to protect this entity and control of its public dollars.
“While the current director may be working towards long overdue reforms, without a complete change in governance, the public cannot remain confident that the PPA will receive the complete overhaul we know it needs – and we will not be protected from this situation recurring once the headlines fade.
“It’s clear that the PPA cannot be trusted to hold themselves accountable, and that the state takeover of this agency is a failure by any measure. It’s time for the state takeover of the PPA to end, and for it to return to local control. Additionally, I’m calling for immediate, non-partisan oversight of the PPA. I look forward to the process ahead to ensure that the PPA is finally held fully accountable to the people of Philadelphia.”