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Poll: A 'Godfather' moment highlights city's political culture

There's a torch song from the Broadway musical A Chorus Line called "What I Did for Love." 

State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.) would have people believe that anything he may have done to steer a charter-school contract to a company he preferred was done out of love for the poor schoolchildren of Philadelphia.

Whatever the motive, if the allegations are true, Evans was wrong. So was Robert L. Archie Jr., the former chairman of the city School Reform Commission, who resigned just days prior to the release of a damning report that also questions his behavior.

The report issued Wednesday by the city's chief integrity officer, Joan Markman, concluded that although Archie recused himself from SRC votes on the matter, he continually conspired with Evans to circumvent the process to select a charter operator for Martin Luther King High School.

An advisory group of parents, school staff, and community members had recommended that the contract go to a for-profit education company called Mosaica Turnaround Partners of Atlanta. Evans, however, wanted a nonprofit Moorestown firm, Foundations Inc., to get the award.

According to Markman, who interviewed 30 people and scrutinized numerous e-mails and other correspondence, when Evans was unable to get his way, he tried to pressure former schools Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman to intervene in his favor.

When Ackerman wouldn't relent, said Markman, Evans and Archie met with Mosaica president John Q. Porter. Also at the meeting was then-Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunery, who said the meeting was like a scene from The Godfather. Porter subsequently decided to withdraw Mosaica from consideration.

Evans issued a statement Thursday that didn't argue with Markman's description of events, but disputed her conclusion. He said, "I am stunned the city's chief integrity officer . . . characterizes me as a puppet master who has the ability to pull strings and make people dance."

But Markman's assessment of one of the city's most powerful politicians isn't hard to accept. Thanks to Nutter, the city now has an integrity officer to help it avoid ethical disasters, which this appears to be. The School District, too, is to be applauded for cooperating in the investigation. But what should happen now?

An investigation by state authorities appears warranted. Meanwhile, Nutter, who last week appointed Rutgers University-Camden Chancellor Wendell E. Pritchett to the SRC, must make another pick. Let him choose more wisely than he did with Archie, who let his willingness to play politics blind him to the lesson in ethics he was providing.