THERE'S a new sheriff in town, all right, but he's turning to an old, familiar face to help straighten out his office.
Ben Hayllar, who served as the city's finance director in the 1990s under then-Mayor Ed Rendell, was appointed yesterday by Sheriff Jewell Williams as his chief deputy for finance and accountability.
After he took the oath of office Monday, Williams identified the post as a critical one, given the negative headlines that have haunted the office in the last year.
"Our priorities are to make sure that we have open records and transparency as we reorganize the Sheriff's Office, especially dealing with the finances," Williams said.
Last month, the U.S. Attorney's Office charged a former member of the sheriff's accounting department with committing fraud and tax evasion.
In November, a city-controller audit raised scores of questions about fishy bookkeeping and suspicious transactions under former Sheriff John Green.
Green retired in 2010.
Hayllar was Rendell's finance director when the now-maligned Deferred Retirement Option Plan was introduced and adopted by the city.
In a news release yesterday, Williams cited Hayllar's "qualities and experience" as reason to believe that he could help restore integrity to the office.
After leaving the Rendell administration, Hayllar served as the president of PGW at a time when the utility company was trying to bounce back from internal finance woes and scandals involving several former top executives.
Hayllar, who will also serve as the sheriff's top financial adviser, said: "I like challenges - and this will certainly be a huge one."
Former City Councilman Joe Vignola, who served last year as the acting chief deputy for finance under acting Sheriff Barbara Deeley, was given the title of undersheriff.
Deeley will stay on in the Sheriff's Office as a special deputy during the current transition, said Harriet Lessy, Williams' spokeswoman.
Mayor Nutter demurred when asked yesterday if Hayllar's appointment suggested that reforms were coming to the Sheriff's Office.
"I don't know what he's going to do or what he's going to ask to do," Nutter said. "I haven't had a conversation with the sheriff about it.
"He's the former finance director for the city. I had contact with him when I was member of City Council.