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Disgraced parking authority chief to get 15 years of free health coverage

Vincent J. Fenerty Jr. resigned in September as executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority amid a sexual-harassment scandal, but he continues to reap the benefits of his former job.

Fenerty, 60, who was paid $223,000 a year to run the PPA, is collecting a $158,628 pension, the highest in the city's retirement system. In January, the Inquirer and Daily News reported that Fenerty had pocketed $227,238 for nearly 2,000 hours of unused vacation, administrative leave, comp time, and sick leave accumulated over 33 years on the job.

Apparently there's more: The PPA confirmed last week that Fenerty also converted a trove of 300 unused sick days into 10 years of future health-care coverage.

That will kick in after he exceeds the five years of health-care coverage eligible to PPA retirees with at least 10 years of service. It will keep Fenerty on the parking authority's books until 2032.

PPA spokesman Martin O'Rourke said Fenerty – who had received 20 sick days per year – obtained one month of health benefits for every 2.5 unused sick days. The agency is now paying $661.39 per month for Fenerty's health benefits, which would translate into $119,050 over 15 years if costs were to remain the same.

"It is certainly unusual and strikes me as an incredibly generous benefit," said Steven Ludwig, a Fox Rothschild attorney who specializes in labor and employment issues. "That's sort of like spinning straw into gold – or 14-karat gold into platinum."

Fenerty started working at the PPA in 1983 and tendered his resignation in September, a day before the authority's board had planned to terminate him following allegations that he sexually harassed two employees.

Fenerty's post-retirement health-care package is much more extensive than what is offered to approximately 5,400 nonunion and non-civil-service city employees, according to Marsha Green-Jones, the city's deputy human resources director.

"No one can do that in this plan," Green-Jones said of Fenerty's conversion of 300 sick days into 10 years of health care.

Green-Jones said retirees in the city-administered plan can accumulate up to 200 sick days and convert a maximum of 60 days into future health insurance. She said very few retirees do that because it often doesn't add up to much insurance or make financial sense.

Fenerty did not respond to a request for comment last week. Nor did PPA Board Chairman Joseph T. Ashdale. O'Rourke said Fenerty's retirement benefits package, like the lump-sum payment for accumulated time off, did not require board approval.

The Republican-controlled PPA, a longtime patronage shop for both political parties, is now under audit by Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

DePasquale, a Democrat, said that he was aware of the PPA's retiree health-care expenditures: "That is part of what we are digging into."

Last year alone, the PPA paid nearly $1.5 million in health-care benefits to 77 ex-employees and 50 dependents, O'Rourke said.

City Councilman David Oh, a Republican who has been critical of PPA management, said those types of payments were another reason to rein in the state-controlled agency.

"There's nobody watching over this," said Oh, who has proposed legislation to transfer some PPA functions back to the city.

When Republicans took over the PPA in 2001, then-House Majority Leader John Perzel estimated that the agency could provide up to $45 million in annual excess revenue to the Philadelphia School District. Instead, those payments have ranged from $2.2 million to $14 million per year.

"The PPA seems to have been incentivized to spend as much money as it possibly can … so there isn't much money left over" for the School District, said Oh, referring to PPA salaries, contracts, equipment purchases, and other expenses.

Last month, the Inquirer and Daily News reported that Fenerty had handed out substantial raises to top-earning employees months before he was accused – a second time – of sexually harassing a subordinate.

Senior PPA staffers have also been accumulating large amounts of comp time – a practice typically reserved for lesser-compensated hourly employees in lieu of overtime – which can be converted to cash when they leave the agency.

"Every time we look at the parking authority," Oh said, "we're seeing mismanagement and overreaching."

In addition to Ashdale, the PPA board chairman, none of the other board members have responded to requests for comment about the payouts and timekeeping practices over the last two months.

The board members are: City Commissioner Al Schmidt, City Councilman Al Taubenberger, attorney Andrew K. Stutzman, optometrist Karen Wrigley, and Russell Wagner, senior vice president of finance at Holy Redeemer Health System.