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Philadelphia: Meet your new unofficial first lady

Philadelphia a new unofficial first lady. Mayor Kenney made his romantic relationship with Letitia "Letty" Santarelli public when she accompanied Kenney to his first overseas trip as mayor last week.

File: Former Neumann-Goretti head coach Letty Santarelli in 2015.
File: Former Neumann-Goretti head coach Letty Santarelli in 2015.Read moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Philadelphia has a new unofficial first lady.

Mayor Kenney made his romantic relationship with Letitia "Letty" Santarelli public when she accompanied him to Iceland last week on what was his first overseas trip as mayor. The relationship was first reported by Philadelphia Magazine.

Kenney, 58, and Santarelli, 52, have been friends for several years and started dating only about a year ago, according to two sources who know the couple. Kenney and Santarelli are both separated from their spouses.

Kenney and Santarelli went to Reykjavik last week on board an Icelandair flight as part of a cultural exchange to mark the first direct flights between the city and Philadelphia. Philadelphia International Airport paid for the mayor's flight to Iceland, and Reykjavik paid for the mayor's hotel room. Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said Santarelli paid her own way.

Santarelli did, however, stay in the mayor's hotel room.

Hitt said that "no additional expense was incurred" due to Santarelli's hotel stay. "He would have needed a room anyway."

Previous mayors have traveled with spouses on city business, and, Hitt said, the overnight arrangements were handled similarly.

Santarelli declined to be interviewed for this article.

Santarelli is an executive assistant for Bellevue Communications Group. Before that, she was the office manager for the Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee for the Democratic National Convention. Kenney recommended her for the post, Hitt confirmed. Santarelli was one of the dozen staffers who received a piece of the controversial $1.2 million in surplus bonuses  approved by former Gov. Ed Rendell, who was chairman of the Host Committee. (She received the smallest slice — $20,000.)

Hitt said Kenney "knows he shouldn't have recommended" Santarelli for the job. As far as the bonuses, Hitt said, Kenney learned of the bonuses only through Santarelli. She said his previous statement on the matter stands.

"Moving forward, any major events in Philadelphia that receive taxpayer-funded grants should have clear, transparent processes for managing any excess funds," Kenney previously said.

Santarelli served as the head coach of the SS. John Neumann and Maria Goretti High School girls' varsity basketball team between 2012 and 2014. That last year, the team won the Catholic League title and finished its season 29-1 with the only loss being the state championship. According to reports at the time, Santarelli resigned from the school as an investigation was going on by the archdiocese into allegations that the team was awarding athletic scholarships.

Kenney has been a huge fan of the Neumann Goretti girls' basketball team, which won the state championship in 2015 and was ranked No. 1 in the country. During his short inauguration speech last year, Kenney choked up a bit talking about the team and gave it a shout-out, yelling "squad," and the girls who were in attendance chanted back at him.

Santarelli is a 1986 graduate of Immaculata University, where she played basketball and was selected as a NCAA first-team all-American.

She has lived in South Philadelphia, Kenney's home neighborhood, for many years.

Iceland was not Santarelli's first trip as a companion to the mayor. She also went with Kenney to Miami in October, where Kenney was speaking at CityLab, an annual gathering of mayors to discuss urban management. The Bloomberg Foundation paid for the mayor's hotel and airfare.

"In any instances where Letty travels with the mayor, including this Miami trip, it's our policy that she cover for her own travel costs," Hitt said.