Former Philadelphia Parking Authority leader Vince Fenerty takes over the city’s Republican Party
It has been six years since Vince Fenerty resigned amid back-to-back sexual harassment scandals at the Philadelphia Parking Authority. He's staging a comeback as chair of the city's Republican Party.
Vince Fenerty, who resigned in 2016 from the Philadelphia Parking Authority amid back-to-back sexual harassment scandals, was elected Wednesday as the new leader of the city’s Republican Party.
It wasn’t a tough election. No other candidate challenged Fenerty.
State Rep. Martina White, who has led the party since late 2019, did not seek a full term when Republican ward leaders voted Wednesday. Fenerty had been calling around for support since Tuesday, a day before White made her announcement.
The mood among ward leaders: Fenerty, 66, has a troubled past but also a capable grasp on how to raise money and organize the party. He was overwhelmingly elected, with just one vote opposing him.
After the vote Fenerty said he wanted a more energetic party that recruits a more racially diverse pool of ward leaders and committeepeople.
“Over the last three years, we’ve all gotten lazy,” Fenerty said. “It’s time to go out and register people to vote. Back to basics. We can move on and have what resembles a two-party system.”
Bill Heeney, Republican leader of the 62nd Ward in lower Northeast Philadelphia, said he didn’t know anyone else who wanted the job as chair.
“I think it’s a real thankless job,” Heeney said. “If you want it, you must be a little nuts. I think he’s going to be a good chairman. I know he’s got a lot of support with female ward leaders. His past is what it is. I think he’s made amends. At least, I hope he has.”
He spent 33 years at the Parking Authority, a patronage-rich agency and the last bastion of Republican power in the city, rising to the top job in 2005.
He was accused of sexually harassing two coworkers, one in the early 2000s and another around 2014. The second case came to light in 2015, but Fenerty was able to hang on to his job. The earlier case went public in 2016, prompting the agency’s board to suspend him with the intent to end his employment.
Fenerty resigned the day before he was expected to be fired.
He continued as a significant player in Republican ward politics, leading the 18th and 31st Wards in the river wards and working as a political consultant while keeping a mostly low profile.
Fenerty was ousted from his role as the party’s secretary in 2018, setting off some tensions between himself and then-chair Mike Meehan. The factions that battled Fenerty now fall under his leadership.
Chris Vogler, leader of the 55th Ward in Northeast Philly, was reelected as the party’s vice chair. Vogler worked for the PPA but was fired by Fenerty due to costly technical troubles in the agency’s red-light program.
Asked if he would support Fenerty, Vogler said: “If there’s only one candidate, of course.”
Matt Wolfe, Republican leader of the 27th Ward in West Philadelphia, said White’s decision to not seek a full term surprised him.
“I would have thought she would have telegraphed this with a little more notice,” said Wolfe, who learned of her move just hours before the election.
Wolfe said Fenerty has been informally acting as an executive director, “doing the legwork” for the party for the last year.
“If you’re looking at ward leaders who are capable, Vince is on the list,” Wolfe said. “Vince has a track record of raising more money than most ward leaders.”
Fenerty’s tenure at the PPA continued to rankle some even after his departure. His former salary of $223,000 per year meant a pension of $158,628 per year. At the time, that was the most expensive pension in the city’s retirement system.
The PPA in 2017 confirmed that Fenerty also converted 300 unused sick days into 10 years of future health-care coverage, on top of the five years in health-care coverage he got from the time he left the agency.