Sometimes the reporting life weighs you down. Sometimes you start to think you need a change of scenery. A new vocation, perhaps — something relaxing, comforting, well-compensated, guaranteed.
So I’ve been burnishing my resumé, but, most important, spitting into a tube for one of those DNA testing services, to see if I’m in any way related to Joseph Ashdale, the chairman of the board of the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
As my colleague Andrew Seidman reported this weekend, being related to Ashdale seems to be a pretty sure path to a job at the PPA. Enough Ashdales to field a baseball team (plus a closer!) have worked there since Papa Joe took over 18 years ago — at least 10 relatives, all told. They’ve essentially turned a state agency into a family business.
But hey — it pays, and where else would that money go anyway? Well, the struggling Philadelphia School District, for one, which the PPA ostensibly is supposed to fund. State Auditor Eugene DePasquale estimates the agency has shortchanged the district by $76 million in five years.
In fairness, the Ashdales have used the money for education anyway: their own.
Seidman reported that Christine Kirlin, Ashdale’s niece, was hired in 2002 to coordinate car impoundments, and got a promotion to a senior position and a 75 percent salary bump in six years at the PPA. That’s on top of the nearly $42,000 she scored in tuition reimbursements for undergraduate and graduate studies. DePasquale’s audit found that dozens of PPA employees pulled in more than $700 grand in education reimbursements in five years — money that should have gone to our schoolchildren.
The PPA disputes this. But what’s not debatable is that a bunch of PPA employees and at least one Ashdale got their higher educations funded while our School District sometimes struggles to provide the most basic educational stability for its children.
The Ashdales weren’t snobby about the jobs they’d take. Some sons and daughters were hired as interns or part-time assistants. A brother-in-law got a $14-an-hour gig. But others, like Kirlin and Ashdale’s brother, who manages the department of facilities maintenance for nearly $100 grand, made out handsomely.
What does Ashdale have to say about this? Nothing. Why should he? He’s never answered a single call from me, except for the time he picked up by accident and just breathed into the phone.
Why should he explain when there’s no one for him to answer to — except his Republican enablers in the State House?
He pockets $75,000 a year from the PPA, though it’s only a part-time gig (and an additional $172,000 as business manager of Philadelphia-area District Council 21 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades). He’s the head of an agency whose former director was forced out over sexual harassment — harassment Ashdale knew about, and he still keeps his job. The agency has weathered seemingly more overtime scandals than Ashdales. And audit after audit that shows they’re fleecing a School District. Ashdale might as well sprinkle a little nepotism on top.
Isn’t it time he answered for something? It’s an embarrassment that he continues to operate with impunity. Especially now, under the specter of a federal indictment that has ensnared his friends and saddled him with the label of “PPA Official No. 2” — an enterprising sort mentioned in the indictment, one who allegedly got yet another PPA audit killed by helping to install windows for a friend of City Councilman Bobby Henon. Ashdale has not been charged in the case.