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Importing top talent to City Hall can carry hefty relocation costs

When Mayor Nutter was preparing to take office in 2007, he said he was willing to pay top dollar for Grade A talent - and he did, creating one of the best-paid staffs ever to work in City Hall.

When Mayor Nutter was preparing to take office in 2007, he said he was willing to pay top dollar for Grade A talent - and he did, creating one of the best-paid staffs ever to work in City Hall.

There was a price to pay, though, for doing so:

Moving expenses.

Some of Nutter's core aides who were recruited from outside Philadelphia recently filed financial-disclosure forms revealing how much it took to bring them here.

Managing Director Camille Barnett got a whopping $50,000 to relocate from Washington to Philadelphia, her chief of staff, Steve Kennebeck, said. Barnett did not report the reimbursement on her disclosure forms but would amend them to do so, Kennebeck said.

Andrew Altman, commerce director and deputy mayor for planning and economic development, packed up his New York City home, with relocation costs totaling $20,000. (Altman's about to fill moving boxes again, following his announcement that he's leaving at the end of June for an Olympic Games planning job in London.)

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey reported that it cost him $9,000 to move from Washington, while Budget Director Stephen Agostini, who also lived in the nation's capital, said his bills totaled $7,400.

So who paid for all this packing and unpacking? Not taxpayers.

The image-conscious Nutter relied instead on donations to a nonprofit transition committee he formed, named A New Day, A New Way, to pay those bills.

- Marcia Gelbart

Kenney calmer after a clash

If City Hall has become a little brighter, that's because Councilman James F. Kenney has chased away the huge black cloud he was dragging around with him for most of this year.

Kenney thought his friend Michael Nutter as mayor was going to usher in a golden era for him and Philadelphia politics, after Kenney spent eight years on the outs with the Street administration. He quickly became Nutter's chief Council ally and proponent of his policies.

But Kenney was increasingly isolated over the course of 2008 as Council fussed with Nutter. He became a certified pariah in March when he introduced a bill to end the DROP program for elected officials and stood by Nutter's call to balance the budget with property-tax increases.

All this time, Kenney's frustration - with Council's lack of cooperation, and Nutter's own missteps - was building, to a point where friends were telling him he was the angriest man around. Councilman Bill Green, the chief object of his ire, could not speak in Council without Kenney's face contorting with disgust.

But Kenney apparently had an epiphany following an ugly confrontation with Green at a May 8 cocktail reception at the Keystone Weekend in Hershey. Neither Green nor Kenney would comment, but various accounts depict Kenney insulting Green - who was with his wife - in a way not becoming to Kenney.

Kenney called Green shortly thereafter to make amends. He also had some fence-mending to do with Council President Anna C. Verna and Majority Leader Marian B. Tasco. On Thursday, Kenney and Green even cosponsored a bill to explore the use of Realtors to sell city land.

"The only thing our bad relationship was going to get me was a bypass," said Kenney, who has appeared markedly more relaxed lately.

"I've always wanted to have a working relationship with Councilman Kenney," Green said. "And I'm pleased I now have one."

- Jeff Shields

Matt Taubenberger gets City Hall job

Matt Taubenberger, who lost a bid for the state House last year, has found a job in City Council with his father's old boss.

Republican Councilman Jack Kelly has hired Taubenberger to work two days a week as a constituent-services representative, making $25,000 a year. Taubenberger held a similar, full-time position for State Rep. George Kenney, whose seat is now held by Democrat Brendan Boyle. Boyle beat Taubenberger, a Republican, last year.

Matt's father, Al Taubenberger, president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and unsuccessful 2007 GOP mayoral candidate, was Kelly's chief of staff in Kelly's first stint in Council from 1988 to 1992.

- Jeff Shields