A group of activists who oppose Philadelphia’s 10-year tax abatement filed an ethics complaint Wednesday against City Councilman Allan Domb, claiming that he should recuse himself from votes related to the abatement because his real estate business has profited from it.
Because of his real estate development work, Domb "has a vested financial interest in many properties that benefit from this abatement,” said Chenjerai Kumanyika, a member of the 215 People’s Alliance and one of the residents who filed the complaint to the Board of Ethics.
Domb, known as Philadelphia’s “condo king,” is the founder of Allan Domb Real Estate. Properties he owns, rents, and sells have received the abatement on new construction or rehabilitation projects, in which owners don’t pay taxes on improvements for 10 years.
In response to the complaint, Domb said he already had asked the city’s Board of Ethics for an opinion on whether his three current abatement applications would preclude him from voting on tax abatement legislation.
In a letter dated Monday, the board said Domb would have no conflict of interest because the bills currently before Council would affect only future abatement applications and would have no impact on Domb’s current applications or abated properties.
“I look forward to continue working with my colleagues on this topic,” Domb said. “The tax abatement provides an incentive for individuals to invest in Philadelphia, its neighborhoods, and its housing stock, but we need to improve the standard.”
There are several bills pending in City Council that would change or eliminate the abatement, including one sponsored by Domb that would reduce the abatement in its last three years, making it essentially an 8½ year program.
215 People’s Alliance has endorsed some of Domb’s opponents in the Democratic primary as he seeks reelection to an at-large City Council seat. The group endorsed Democratic candidates Erika Almirón, Isaiah Thomas, Justin DiBeradinis, Ethelind Baylor, and Councilwoman Helen Gym, all of whom have said they would like to reform or abolish the 10-yearabatement.
The group released a report last month on Domb’s financial interest in the abatement, claiming that the condo buildings in which his company rents and sells units received $12.3 million in tax breaks in 2018 through the program.
In a conference call Wednesday, members of 215 People’s Alliance said that although their report and complaint against Domb comes less than two weeks before the May 21 primary, they were not intended as campaign-related attacks.
“This isn’t a personal attack,” said Mindy Isser, a labor organizer and a member of 215 People’s Alliance. “It’s very clear that Domb has a vested interest in maintaining the tax abatement.”