In this election year, Philadelphia voters will be paying double the cost for the city commissioners who oversee elections.

Chalk it up to a concern about good government and the appearance of bias.

City commissioners oversee elections, but when they are running for office themselves - as they are this year - they take a paid leave to avoid concerns about their tampering with the election process.

So Democrats Marge Tartaglione and Edgar A. Howard and Republican Joseph J. Duda will be leaving their duties to others.

Usually, the president judge of Common Pleas Court names sitting Common Pleas judges to fill in. The judges' salaries of $152,000 are not supplemented for their added duties.

But this year, Common Pleas President Judge C. Darnell Jones II says he's facing his own ethical issues because of his campaign for the Democratic nomination to the state Supreme Court.

Jones said he decided not to appoint sitting judges to act as city commissioners because he wanted to avoid "any appearance of bias that might be suggested," since sitting judges are under his control as a president judge.

So, in early March, Jones appointed three retired Common Pleas judges - Paul L. Jaffe, Gene Cohen and Nelson Diaz, who also served as city solicitor to Mayor Street - to serve as city commissioners.

This, according to City Solicitor Romulo Diaz (no relation to Nelson Diaz) is the first time private citizens have been named to the temporary post instead of sitting Common Pleas judges.

And if the incumbent commissioners prevail in the May primary, then the three temporary commissioners will serve well into November.

All the while, all six will be getting paid. Diaz will get $113,000, since he replaces Tartaglione, the chairwoman, while the two other retired judges will make almost $106,000 each.

Solicitor Diaz noted that Jones' order made no mention of pay for the temporary commissioners. But later, he said he had been asked by the city commissioners office for an opinion on the salary issue. That opinion confirmed that the temps should be paid at the rate of the sitting commissioners.

Jaffe, 78, who is in private practice, said he never thought about pay for his work. When asked to serve, he readily agreed. Public service, he said, runs in his veins. He has, over a long legal career, served on the boards of hospitals and colleges.

"I said initially that I didn't care about it," Jaffe said of compensation. Nelson Diaz and Cohen could not be reached for comment.

The commissioners have a weekly meeting, Jaffe said, and there are e-mails and phone calls they make to each other.

"Every few days I get a package of materials to look at," said Jaffe, who has already received his first paycheck. *