A legal action filed by the city Board of Ethics links the city electricians' union to two anonymous fliers distributed in last year's mayoral election, both violating a state law by failing to disclose who paid for them.
One of the fliers, criticizing Michael Nutter's "stop and frisk" policy, had already been traced to Tommie St. Hill, a political consultant who received about $70,000 last year from Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and its political action committee.
In a petition filed late last week in Common Pleas court, the Board of Ethics said that a second anonymous leaflet - distributed in church parking lots, questioning the religious practices of Nutter and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady - had been ordered by Ed Kirlin, another political consultant whose firm received $26,500 from the union PAC.
The Ethics Board traced both fliers to Hare Brothers Printing and a broker named Rachel Strassheim. She told investigators that St. Hill had ordered 125,000 copies of the "stop and frisk" leaflet, featuring a provocative photo of a police strip search, and that Kirlin ordered 50,000 copies of a flier distributed outside Catholic churches on Mother's Day, two days before the May 2007 primary election.
The leaflet described businessman Tom Knox as the only "true, practicing Catholic" in the race, alleging that Brady "never attends mass" and contending that Nutter had been a Catholic only to get a Catholic education.
Knox denied any connection to the flier but it provoked Nutter to attack Knox as "a scumbag."
Both Kirlin and St. Hill gave sworn testimony to the Ethics Board last summer acknowledging their authorship of the anonymous fliers and saying that they created the leaflets on their own, without union involvement.
But last week the Ethics Board sought a court order, requiring the IBEW to produce all documents in its possession related to the two fliers, particularly any communication among St. Hill, Kirlin and three IBEW leaders - union business manager John Dougherty, political director Bob Henon and union spokesman Frank Keel.
The Ethics Board had issued an administrative subpoena for the documents in early July, its court filing disclosed. But the union's attorney, George Bochetto, challenged the validity of the subpoena and said the union would not comply.
Keel, the union's spokesman, refused yesterday to answer any questions about the fliers or the legal dispute. "No comment," he said by e-mail.