A former consultant for City Council candidate Judy Moore has sued her campaign, alleging the Democrat has failed to pay for $9,000 worth of work.
Rittenhouse Political Partners, which provided fund-raising advice in the campaign’s early stages, also says it is owed about $9,000, although the firm has not taken legal action to pursue the debt.
Representatives for Moore, an executive with the Garces Group restaurant company who is challenging Republican incumbent Brian O’Neill in Northeast Philadelphia’s 10th District, vigorously disputed the accusations in the lawsuit by Daniel Kalai.
“The Kalai lawsuit is baseless, and I think it’s going to be dismissed,” Moore attorney Matthew Haverstick said in a statement. “I’m not disputing that he did some work for the campaign, for which he was paid. I am disputing that he had a signed agreement with the campaign that allowed him to get paid regardless of whether he was, one, doing the work, or, two, doing it effectively.”
The lawsuit, filed in Municipal Court on Sept. 4, is an aftershock of a rocky start to Moore’s first run for office, which saw personnel turnover and uncertainty about its viability. Kalai served as acting campaign manager, according to the suit, after the departure of Moore’s initial hire for the top job, Melanie Rose, and before the hiring of current campaign manager Dan Lodise.
Lodise said the campaign has since turned a corner.
“Since making changes to her campaign leadership in the Spring, Judy Moore has continued to receive support from important constituencies such as firefighters and teachers, and her campaign’s momentum is growing," Lodise said in a statement. "Dirty politics and corrupt consultants make it hard for ordinary citizens to run for office, but Judy has not let it slow her down and continues to run a positive campaign focused on the issues impacting the families of NE Philly.”
The campaign maintains Kalai did not do the work he says he did.
Kalai, who appears to have written the lawsuit himself, did not respond to a request for comment. His lawsuit contends that he was paid only $10,000 for $19,000 worth of consulting services that included working to keep a potential Democratic rival off the primary ballot and conducting research on O’Neill.
A source with ties to the campaign who requested anonymity because the race is ongoing said Moore’s disputes with consultants may hurt her chances in the Nov. 5 election.
“How you work with vendors is a sign of a campaign’s support and professionalism. It’s a barometer of viability," the source said. "If there was an opportunity to have avoided a lawsuit or to have avoided this type of conflict, I’m surprised that step wasn’t taken.”
Neither the alleged debt to Kalai nor the debt to Rittenhouse appeared on Moore’s most recent campaign finance report. Campaigns are required to report unpaid obligations, raising the possibility that — if the debts are found to be legitimate and if they were intentionally omitted from the filing — the campaign violated city ethics rules.
Lodise said that, since he took over the campaign, “all vendors have been paid in full," and that it will work with Rittenhouse to address the discrepancy.
“The outstanding balance with Rittenhouse Partners was inherited from prior campaign management," he said. "The campaign is working with Rittenhouse Partners to address this matter, and if further amending to previous reports is necessary those amendments will be made in accordance with campaign finance law.”