The Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women launched an online petition this week calling on Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams to fire three prosecutors who shared sexist and racist emails while they were employed at the state Attorney General's Office.
The petition, which had more than 100 signatures Tuesday, echoes recent demands from State Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D., Phila.) and all the female members of City Council.
The district attorney issued a statement in September saying that rather than firing the prosecutors - Frank Fina, Patrick Blessington, and Marc Costanzo - he had directed that they be given sensitivity training. Seth Williams' office has declined to say whether that training took place, what it entailed, or how long it lasted.
"I think maybe he thought this would blow over, but . . . it's just the beginning," Nina Ahmad, president of Philadelphia's NOW chapter, said Tuesday.
Councilwoman Cindy Bass said that she spoke to Seth Williams on Friday and that he was unmoved by calls to fire Fina, Blessington, and Costanzo.
"He feels very strongly about his position and I feel very strongly about mine," Bass said. "But if these guys think they can get away with it, it's not going to die down. We've got more in our arsenal that we intend to uncover."
Some of the emails depicted women engaging in oral and anal sex. Only Fina sent such emails.
Calls and emails seeking information from Seth Williams and spokesman Cameron Kline on the sensitivity training went unanswered Friday, Monday, and Tuesday. Blessington and Costanzo did not return calls and emails seeking comment. Fina directed all inquiries to the District Attorney's Office.
Ahmad said she had many questions on what training occurred.
"How many hours of training did they get? Who hosted it? What did it cost? Was there a bidding process?" Ahmad said.
Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison said the city's Human Resources Department had not provided sensitivity training for the prosecutors. "I'm surprised he hasn't answered the question," Gillison said of Williams.
Sensitivity training can vary from an online seminar to one-on-one sessions. Albert D'Attilio, city human resources director, said his team holds group and individual training for new employees and, as needed, on sexual harassment prevention and Equal Employment Opportunity Law provisions.
Deborah Weinstein of the Weinstein Firm said the "Porngate" scandal has become a cautionary tale in some of her presentations. Weinstein is an employment lawyer with a master's degree in social work who has done sensitivity or antiharassment workplace training for more than 15 years. She was not brought in by the District Attorney's Office.
Her training sessions are not "touchy-feely," Weinstein said, but are grounded in workplace etiquette.
"It's been my experience that you cannot change someone's deep-seated prejudices in a few brief training sessions," she said. "I'm not attempting to do that. My message is, you have to conform your conduct to be a professional."
What's a good gauge? "If it occurs to you when you're about to do or say something that you might be crossing the line, that would be the line. If what you are about to do or say you would not want done to a family member, that would be the line," she said.
"And if you would not want to read about yourself in the newspapers [or] see yourself on television doing what you're about to do or say, stop. Do not pass go."