ORI FEIBUSH, the 29-year-old real-estate whiz with a team of candidates hoping to take over the committee posts in South Philly's 36th Ward, ran into trouble yesterday while challenging other people seeking those positions.
The legal battle pits Feibush against former City Council President Anna Verna, 82, the Democratic leader of the 36th Ward for nearly four decades.
Verna yesterday said it was "quite evident" that Feibush is trying to take over the ward to use it as a base of political power to challenge rookie Councilman Kenyatta Johnson next year.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Charles Cunningham III yesterday started to dismiss Feibush's many nominating-petition challenges to 36th Ward committee candidates because they did not include a copy of the disputed petitions.
Larry Otter, Feibush's lawyer, said he would appeal Cunningham's rulings, which he said impact "basically all" of Feibush's challenges in the 36th Ward.
"With all due respect to the judge, he's dead wrong," Otter said.
Cunningham based his ruling on an administrative order issued by the Common Pleas Court for how nominating-petition challenges should be formatted.
Otter said the state's election code does not require a copy of the petition in dispute to be included in such challenges. The state law supersedes the local order, Otter said.
Cunningham's rulings dismissed some challenges, even after lawyers for Feibush and Verna appeared to agree that the candidate petitions in dispute lacked the 10 valid signatures necessary to secure a spot on the May 20 primary-election ballot.
"If I was Mrs. Verna here, I would be embarrassed that my committee people submitted petitions that were fraudulent," Feibush said. "I would personally ask them to step aside."
Feibush said the vast majority of the 120 candidates he fielded for posts in the 36th, 30th and 48th wards in South Philly made it onto the ballot without being challenged. About 70 of those candidates are in the 36th Ward.
The 36th Ward is bordered by Broad Street, Washington Avenue, Moore Street and the Schuylkill. The 30th Ward is just to the north; the 48th Ward is just to the south.
Verna said she believes that Feibush does not want to become the 36th Ward leader but wants to control it for the Council race.
Feibush said he's focused on the legal challenges for now.
Regarding a possible run for ward leader, he said, "I'll never say never."