INQUIRER: The city’s judges fired Joseph A. Russo from the Board of Revision of Taxes today, after a scathing report from the city inspector general said he had manipulated property assessments, abused his power, and committed perjury. The sudden firing of Russo, a longtime ally of former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, appeared to be unprecedented in the 155-year history of the BRT, the agency that sets tax values for all properties in Philadelphia.
“He did not uphold the standards expected of appointees,” President Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe said. She said the vote was unanimous and the firing effective immediately. The findings, many of which were detailed as part of a three-part series in The Inquirer early this month, focus mainly on Russo’s role in the 2000 reassessment of an old convent and Catholic school on Moyamensing Avenue in South Philadelphia.
Russo has extensive ties to Fumo. He was president of Citizens’ Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, the charity Fumo controlled, and the IG report identified payments and reimbursements to Russo from Fumo’s campaign committee. The report, by Inspector General Amy Kurland, also claims that Fumo later secured Russo his seat on the BRT board. “Russo’s actions clearly destroyed the public’s trust and confidence in the operations of the BRT and in his ability to be a fair, efficient, and impartial city employee,” reads the confidential report, which The Inquirer obtained. MORE
RELATED: The firing of Joseph A. Russo from the Philadelphia Board of Revision of Taxes is a good start toward fixing the agency, but it’s only a start. The city’s judges dismissed Russo after receiving a scathing report from Inspector General Amy Kurland. The report said Russo, a pal of recently convicted former state Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, manipulated property assessments, abused his power, and committed perjury. Credit goes to Mayor Nutter for demanding the dismissal of Russo and the rest of the board. BRT members are appointed by the judges, based on referrals for the patronage mill from party bosses.Russo’s attorney complained that the judges acted in haste Thursday, without hearing Russo’s side of the story. While there should be a clear policy for dismissals, Russo did have an opportunity to talk – to the inspector general. He refused. That silence told the judges what they needed to know. MORE
PREVIOUSLY: The BRT Must Die!