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Stand By Your Man

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When her ward leader husband Carlos Matos went to jail, wife Renee Tartaglione did a Tammy Wynette and decided to stand by her man.

Renee took over as de facto ward leader in Matos' 19th Ward, collecting and doling out street money. She recruited and ran a slate of committee people in the neighboring Seventh Ward in an attempt to oust rival ward leader Angel Cruz.  She even supervised the printing of phony sample ballots that touted Cruz's candidacy for the state legislature, but gave the wrong lever number. Now, that was clever.

That's what I call wifely fidelity

 

Marge T.jpgThere was only one problem.  At the same time she was playing ward leader, Renee Tartaglione was serving as chief deputy to the City Commissioners, who oversee elections in Philadelphia. These public servants are specifically forbidden to engage in political activity.

 

You can't have people who are supposed to ensure the fairness and integrity of the election system monkeying with the machine.

It isn't news that Renee engaged in this political activity.  She's a Tartaglione, after all, and politics is imprinted in their genes.

What is news is that she got caught and punished.  The city's Board of Ethics, acting on a complaint by Cruz (who took a cell phone photo of Renee collecting street money) did a 14-month investigation of the allegations.  Before it could take official action, Renee retired as chief deputy and returned to private life. Later, she agreed to pay a fine of $2,700 and admitted to nine violations in a settlement agreement released this week (Dec. 6) by the Ethics Board.

Her mother, Margaret Tartaglione, who - by the sheerest of coincidences - is chair of the City Commissioners defended her daughter and threatened to punch a reporter who irked her with his line of questioning.  Marge is still feisty are age 77.

The Tartaglione case - and others brought by the Ethics Board - sends a message to the political community in town that shenanigans will be punished.  This is a major shift from the earlier, prevailing culture of non-enforcement.

If there are no sanctions, then there are no rules.  If there are no rules, political behavior will be driven by the worst actors.  In the past, ward leaders and elected officials literally would laugh at allegations of wrong doing because they knew nothing would ever be done about it. Refer the case of the District Attorney? Ha. Ask the state to prosecute? Haha.

The only fear they had was of the feds.  And the feds rarely get involved in petty, venial sins, such as the ones Renee committed.  They go for mortal sins.

In sum, we should be thankful we have the Ethics Board, and the integrity officers within city government, whose job it is to go after the sinners.

The Tartaglione case is a clarifying moment for the political establishment in town. And it needed one.

 

 -- TF

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