Mayor denounces councilman after he called city official a 'criminal'

Pat Loeb
March 13, 2019 - 3:52 pm
Finance director Rob Dubow testified at a City Council committee hearing.

Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has denounced the behavior of a City Councilman who called the city's finance director a "criminal" during a committee hearing Tuesday. 

The mayor fired off a letter to Councilman David Oh, calling his conduct "irresponsible" and "reprehensible." 

"I have never seen such blatant disrespect and disregard for the work of our City employees in council chambers," Kenney wrote, adding such "inflammatory language" is fit only for the "fringes of political life."

"You should be ashamed," the letter said, "and you owe the hardworking people you defamed an apology." 

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The mayor was referring to a hearing on Oh's bill to throw out last year's real estate tax assessments. The city admits there were errors and says it has taken a number of steps to protect the taxpayers who received faulty assessments.  

But Oh's bill would have applied even to those whose assessments were accurate, which would have created a hole in the budget. 

Finance director Rob Dubow testified against it, citing legal issues, and explaining steps the city is already taking to address the problems created by an admittedly flawed assessment system. That's when Oh turned on Dubow.

"You don't want to give the money back. I don't know why you don't want to give the money back. You got a $5 billion budget this year. Why won't you give the money back? Do you think you're supposed to keep this money? You're not. I will say, me personally and you can respond, you've been here too long. I started out as an assistant D.A., I've done criminal defense. The thing about criminals, they can't seem to understand they don't have a right to somebody else's money," Oh said. 

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Dubow regularly and calmly absorbs council criticism, but was clearly angry when he responded.

"I obviously strongly disagree with many of your characterizations," he said.

When Oh began to speak again, Dubow said, "I let you talk, are you going to let me talk now?"

A spokesman for Oh says the councilman was not calling Dubow a criminal but "addressing Dubow, as a member of the administration, to say that for the administration to refuse to fix these assessments is akin to criminals thinking they have better things to do with people’s money than the people themselves." 

The bill was held in committee.