Last week, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown admitted to numerous city election-law violations and agreed to a record-setting $48,834 in fines and repayments. As for the alleged mastermind of the fraud — Brown’s former campaign manager, John D. McDaniel — he lost his job with the city.
Why McDaniel had that $87,125-a-year job in the first place is a far more intriguing topic.
McDaniel, a resident of the Overbrook Park section who is known as a political operative with ties to the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 322, has held patronage jobs under both former Mayor John Street and Mayor Nutter. Despite accusations that he stole $13,000 from a nonprofit during his tenure with the Street administration, Nutter hired McDaniel as a “volunteer coordinator” at the airport last year. The airport’s website indicates that he recruited 22 new volunteers before his dismissal in the wake of the Brown scandal.
Administration spokesman Mark McDonald says the mayor wanted to give McDaniel, who worked on Nutter’s re-election campaign, “a second chance.”
“[Nutter] knows the guy,” says McDonald. “The mayor met with him and talked about the problems he’d had … and they discussed the allegation that he’d stolen money. That was dealt with.”
Simply getting a crack at an airport job would be one thing, but McDaniel received extraordinary treatment. City officials indicate that not only was McDaniel’s position created specifically for him, but that the mayor also worked out a complex funding arrangement on his behalf.
Despite nominally working for the airport, McDaniel’s patronage position was created within the Managing Director’s Office (MDO), a city executive branch that includes 289 mayoral appointments and other workers from various city departments who are exempt from civil-service-exam rules. McDaniel’s hiring would have pushed the airport staff beyond the allowable limit of civil-service-exempted employees, a rule designed to curb patronage appointments. So Nutter instead created the position within the MDO, shifting money from airport proceeds, known as the Aviation Fund, to fund McDaniel’s salary.
“He was the only MDO employee that was fully funded by the Aviation Fund,” says Andrew Stober, chief of staff for the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities. He acknowledges that only the mayor would have the authority to arrange such a deal.
Perhaps the greatest mystery of the internecine Brown/McDaniel saga is why a little-known political player with a checkered past (who, incidentally, owes the city $6,495.91 in back property taxes and has two liens on his property) was afforded such treatment.
One possible explanation stems from McDaniel’s other role in the Brown settlement. He was implicated in accepting campaign contributions on behalf of Brown in excess of Philadelphia’s legal limit. These donations came from the enormous Progressive Agenda PAC, which was apparently run solely by McDaniel and funded almost entirely by local labor unions — and by the Nutter campaign.