Former City Councilmember Blondell Reynolds Brown, who took a job with the Register of Wills after leaving elective office this year, is stepping down from her new position after being criticized for applying to enter the controversial Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP).
Eight years ago, when public outrage over elected officials’ collecting the lucrative retirement benefit was threatening several of her Council colleagues’ political careers, Brown said she would never enroll in DROP.
But after her 20-year legislative career ended in January, she was hired by Register of Wills Tracey Gordon for a newly created position, director of strategic partnerships, allowing her to enter the program as a regular city worker.
Brown was eligible to enter DROP as a councilmember but waited to do so until she left the public spotlight. Asked in January if she would take DROP in her new role, she said, “It’s nobody’s business but mine.”
Brown applied for DROP on Feb. 18, The Inquirer reported last week. After a week of criticism of her reversal, Brown on Wednesday informed Gordon that she would resign effective April 3 from her new job, which involved establishing public-private partnerships to preserve the many historical documents in the office’s records.
“I am grateful for the councilwoman’s preservation focus and efforts at my office, and I am confident that the much-needed work the councilwoman started will continue,” Gordon said in a statement. “I wish her the best of luck in the next chapter of her career.”
Mike Dunn, a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney, said Brown’s DROP application had not yet been processed and will be “moot” upon her resignation, which was first reported by Philadelphia Citizen.
DROP allows city employees to pick a retirement date up to four years in the future and immediately start accumulating pension payments in an interest-bearing account. Upon retirement, they receive a lump sum payout, sometimes totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The program, presented as a way to make government more efficient by allowing managers to plan for employees’ exits, has been criticized for allowing workers to “double-dip” by simultaneously earning salaries and accruing pension payouts.
Kenney has promised “unequivocally” never to enter DROP, Dunn said.
“He has long had misgivings about the cost of the program to the city’s pension fund, and feels that its use by elected officials is wrong,” Dunn said.