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Is this the corruption we're always talking about?

We have an abstract sense of corruption in this city. We assume it happens all the time. And, of course, we have the Fumos, the Marianos, and the Kemps to fuel our assumptions. But those guys were big fish. The sort of run-of-the-mill, everyday corruption that's supposed to be happening here — well, I don't even know how it allegedly works, much less who the theoretical good-for-nothings are.

Yesterday, though, we may have caught a glimpse of the elusive beast. A former city employee named Brenda Wilkins plead guilty to abusing her position as a Real Estate Specialist for the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation. Essentially Wilkins sold a PHDC house worth $65,000 to her daughter's boyfriend for $1. She now faces fines, restitution payment, and a potential prison term.

This strikes me as the sort of case we are imagining — vaguely — when we assume that corruption happens every day: A rank-and-file worker using her position to hook up a friend. You can imagine how it might work elsewhere: An L&I inspector looking the other way on a buddy's roach-infested bar. A cop bullying a woman after a car accident with his son. And indeed, back when Wilkins was charged, Inspector General Amy Kurland said that her office had "hundreds of cases" to review, and that she got tips "every day." Whether those tips will pan out, however, and whether people are really ripping off taxpayers all the time, I still have no idea.

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