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Clout: The story behind Delco's 'Deep Throat'

YOU MIGHT'VE heard that Ed Mitchell, a longtime councilman in Upland Borough, was busted in a kickback and covert surveillance scheme. But how much do you really know about Mitchell?

Ed Mitchell is accused in a wild kickback scheme involving secret surveillance equipment.
Ed Mitchell is accused in a wild kickback scheme involving secret surveillance equipment.Read more

YOU MIGHT'VE heard that Ed Mitchell, a longtime councilman in Upland Borough, was busted by Delaware County authorities this week for allegedly participating in a kickback scheme that involved the installation of secret surveillance equipment in the borough hall.

Clout knows what you're thinking: Who's Ed Mitchell? Where the hell is Upland? What's for dinner tonight?

But read on.

Mitchell, 73, looks as if he walked out of a Norman Rockwell painting - a bespectacled, white-haired man more likely to go fishing on a lazy Sunday afternoon with a pipe dangling from his mouth than allegedly violating the Pennsylvania Wiretapping Law by installing hidden microphones so powerful they picked up conversations in multiple rooms.

"Looks like a grandpop," one Media courthouse source said Wednesday as Mitchell was hauled in to be processed on felony theft charges.

But any reporter who's covered politics in and around Chester City over the last decade or so probably has Mitchell's name in their Rolodex (or the digital equivalent thereof).

Mitchell was essentially the Deep Throat of southern Delco. Think Mark Felt, but ... not as cool looking.

"No wonder he knew so much," one reporter joked Wednesday when informed that Mitchell was behind an eavesdropping operation that would make the NSA proud.

Our colleague Maria Panaritis reported that Delaware County investigators discovered that even they were recorded while conducting the criminal investigation into Mitchell at the borough hall, according to District Attorney Jack Whelan.

Mitchell's arrest shocked local reporters - not exactly a shockable bunch - who had long considered him a valuable source, especially on matters pertaining to the troubled Chester Upland School District, where he was a former board member.

"I'm not sure there were ever any bodies buried, but if there were, he would have told us about them . . . He always shared info because he wanted the public to know how they were being screwed," said a reporter who previously covered Chester.

Mitchell was the kind of guy who'd give you a wink after you asked a question based on info he'd fed you.

"In retrospect, I guess his motives were less altruistic, but at the time, I thought he was actually a good guy, standing up for the little people," another Delco reporter said. "I'm actually kind of amazed he was able to keep getting his hands on stuff for so long a period. Maybe he had something over the clerks there."

Actually, some of the surveillance equipment was recording an office where two secretaries worked, according to the criminal complaint. Hmmm.

"Guy knew everything and everyone in Delco," said another local journalist, "which is why it's surprising that he could get jammed up like this."

Sources in Upland (pop. 3,251) told the Delaware County Daily Times on Wednesday that the mood around borough hall was celebratory following his arrest. "He is the devil incarnate," one person close to Upland leaders told the newspaper.

That seemed a little harsh to us.

But then, an Upland political source told Clout on Thursday that Mitchell was actually a Machiavellian pol who would use employees like pawns.

"It was like he always had the upper hand and played people against each other. He was good at it," the source said. "Once you turned around, he'd stab you in the back. He loved that little town because he controlled everything."

Mitchell's attorney, John Flannery, says his client is an Army vet who's been married 40-some years and has "been involved in politics for a long time and done a lot of good."

But it looks as if his days of running Upland - and dishing dirt to local reporters - are over.

Rendell to Kenney: Smile, man

Gov. Rendell thinks Mayor Kenney has done a fine job his first year in office - we recommend Holly Otterbein's roundup in Philly Mag - but he'd like to see him smile more.

"I can't understand why he seems to be angry all the time," Rendell said at the Pennsylvania Society last weekend. "He's doing a good job, he's fighting the good fight, he's standing up for the things he believes in. When I did that, I felt like Hubert Humphrey. I felt like a happy warrior."

Kenney has had a pretty successful rookie year, getting a soda tax passed in City Council and several of his bigger initiatives, like pre-K and Rebuild, off the ground. Philadelphia has helped make him look good, too. We hosted a relatively drama-free DNC and landed the NFL draft next year.

Rendell suggested that Kenney stop and smell the roses before his mayoral days pass him by.

"I would lose my temper, but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed losing my temper," Rendell said. "He should relax and enjoy it because it goes by awful fast."

But Kenney's not exactly a Scrooge either. His public schedule this week included an appearance where he will be dressed up as Buddy the Elf. Tights and all.

"Yes, the mayor does enjoy being mayor," Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt told Clout. "No one loves their job 100 percent of the time, and being charged with the well-being of a city of 1.5 million people definitely has its less-than-fun moments, but overall, there isn't a day that goes by that he doesn't feel incredibly privileged and humbled to have this opportunity."

So, second term? Yea or nay?

- Staff writers William Bender and Julia Terruso contributed to this column.