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How not to run for public office in Philadelphia: A lesson

Three groups will host a class in November on how to run. But for a lesson in how not to run for public office in Philadelphia? You don't have to wait for that.

FILE / Philadelphia City Hall.
FILE / Philadelphia City Hall.Read moreDAVID WARREN / Philadelphia Inquirer

Do you feel the calling to run for public office in Philadelphia?

The best advice I can offer: Lie down until you regain your senses.

Still hungry for elected office?

A trio of groups is hosting a free interactive training class next month on how to become a candidate, focusing on filing deadlines for important documents, campaign planning, and — most important, unfortunately — fund-raising.

Those are all good topics. And Crowdpac, the Committee of Seventy, and Philadelphia 3.0 know the ropes well enough to teach them.

That's a fine approach, I guess. But what if we taught local politics the way some high schools teach drivers' education — by showing the students a mangled car wreck?

I present to you, for educational purposes only, the lingering aftereffects of the 2015 Democratic primary election for the Second Council District in Philadelphia. Consider this a lesson in the many things not to do in an election.

This mess bubbled back up last week when a Common Pleas Court judge approved a whopping $60,000 fine for a local political action committee, Citizens Organizing for Pennsylvania's Security, aka COPS PAC.

Ori Feibush, a real estate developer who challenged Councilman Kenyatta Johnson in the 2015 primary, spent a bundle for the services of COPS PAC. That became its own mess when Feibush filed a lawsuit after losing the race, claiming he'd been ripped off.

The lawsuit seems to have triggered a probe by the Philadelphia Board of Ethics, which went to court because COPS PAC didn't file two required campaign finance reports showing where its money came from and how it was spent in 2015.

The judge on the case gave COPS PAC until midnight on Thursday to file the reports, offering a $20,000 rebate on the $60,000 fine if that deadline was met.

COPS PAC last week filed some but not all of the required information. An example: It reported taking in $161,200 in 2015 but only detailed $4,097 in spending.

Shane Creamer, the Board of Ethics' executive director, said the reports don't meet the standard set by the judge, so COPS PAC is ineligible for the rebate.

Kevin Price, the PAC's treasurer and Democratic chairman in the Second Ward, says he's working on submitting the remaining information but believes that his efforts so far should satisfy the judge's deadline.

That's for the judge to decide. A jury has already handed down judgment in December in the lawsuit Feibush filed in October 2015 against COPS PAC and Ed Nesmith, the Democratic leader of the Second Ward.

Feibush claimed he paid Nesmith and COPS PAC to rent vans, pay election-day workers, and other expenses but was bilked by the ward leader. Nesmith claimed Feibush still owed him money.

The jury awarded Feibush $37,500 from Nesmith and $22,500 from COPS PAC. It also awarded Nesmith $15,000 for his claim against Feibush.

Nesmith paid up, according to Wally Zimolong, Feibush's lawyer, but COPS PAC did not. Nesmith's lawyer, James Berardinelli, said Feibush paid up, too.

So, 2½ years after the 2015 primary, this councilmanic catastrophe drags on.

There must be a lesson in all this for aspiring politicians as valuable as how to fill out nomination petitions, schedule fund-raisers, and plan door-to-door canvassing routes.

We could call it: How Not to Run 101.