Apparently, $14.3 million just ain't what it used to be. Living off that paltry sum, the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office hasn't managed, four months into Sheriff Jewell Williams' leadership, to establish a website capable of listing the sheriff's sales from which the department ultimately derives some of its budget. The office claims no responsibility for phillysheriff.com, its former online presence, which was infamously designed by Reach Communications, a company founded by a brother of an employee of the office. A request for proposals has, according to spokesman Joseph Blake, been issued. Advice to would-be bidders: Bid less than $14.3 million.
Or don't. Despite, or perhaps because of, the various performance deficits of his office, Williams asked City Council in a recent budget hearing for more money — a whopping $3.5 million. To put that into perspective: In the mayor's proposed 2012 budget, the city's homeless shelter system, after years of dire cuts that forced shelters to drop basic services like case management, would get only an extra $1 million this year — and that's in the face of millions of dollars of cuts by the state.
Among the anticipated expenses mentioned by Williams to justify such a bold request: a new computer system ($500,000), an outside financial audit ($300,000) and 30 new deputies and civilian employees. Those could be useful since — despite the various scandals that have engulfed the Sheriff's Office — Williams has also been offering up the (rather vague) idea since taking office of assuming increased "law enforcement" duties. The sheriff did not mention to Council his earlier request for a $38,000 SUV, as reported by the Daily News in February.
Sensing, perhaps, that other bold new initiatives must be close on the heels of such an enormous monetary request, Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez asked about an issue close to her constituents: education around foreclosures, which the sheriff is tasked with carrying out. Sánchez asked what the sheriff's strategy is for helping residents prevent a foreclosure. "We refer them to our staff who could give them information," Williams replied, "on how not to lose their house."
It wasn't exactly, the tone of Sánchez's further questions seemed to suggest, a $3.5 million answer.
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