There’s absolutely nothing corrupt about having one of the most powerful political bosses in the city in charge of elections! Nope! Not a chance! Don’t even ask, or Marge Tartaglione, chairwoman of City Commission, will threaten to punch you out.
Last week I watched a room full of City Commission officials and reporters sit around and calmly go about business as usual. This just two days after former Chief Deputy City Commissioner Renee Tartaglione Matos admitted to illegally working against State Rep. Angel Cruz during his primary race last spring versus challenger Jonathan Ramos.
The commission staffers sure moved on quickly, happy in their first public meeting since Tartaglione Matos’s confession to discuss technicalities of upcoming elections as if their chief deputy hadn’t just been busted.
They had to be kidding.
So I asked 77-year-old Marge Tartaglione, otherwise known as the former Chief Deputy’s mother, how we could trust anything produced by the Commissioners’ Office at this point.
She was pissed. “The election is over ... she retired,” Tartaglione shot back, referring to her daughter. “It’s over ... We run a clean house here,” she added, visibly angry. “It’s over. It’s over. That’s it. No more questions.”
Pressing the issue, I mentioned that Cruz had alleged that the entire Tartaglione family was working against him. That’s when mama bear lost it. “You’re a liberal paper aren’t you?” Tartaglione cackled. “You want all the liberals to read this like this office is corrupt.”
Then came the threat.
“You say that and I can jump over this table and punch you out.”
The soundbite became the story as Philly news sources fixated on the absurdity coming out of the Chairwoman’s mouth instead of focusing on the substance and implications of the charges against her daughter.
“Oh, what an eccentric, feisty old lady,” was the theme of the flood of “commissioner threatens to punch reporter” articles that swamped the web and print media last week.
But what about addressing why the feisty old lady won’t answer any questions?
In the week since I posed the question to Tartaglione not one member of the commission has even attempted to offer a remotely credible response.
So here it is again. Now that we have proof that a member of the City Commission was illegally participating in elections, how can we have any faith whatsoever that a single thing that comes out of the office is legit—especially when it’s run by the disgraced deputy’s own mother?
It was widely known that Tartaglione Matos was supporting Ramos, but somehow the people she worked with, including her mom-boss, were blissfully ignorant?
“It’s over … we run a clean house,” is the only answer taxpayers get?
That sounds suspiciously close to the response Tartaglione Matos gave last summer when questions about her impartiality in the Ramos case were initially raised: “Our consciences are clear. We do a good job. We’re honest people.”
Even more of a disgrace, Tartaglione Matos got off easy: A laughably small $2,700 fine and a one year ban from holding city employment for nine violations of city charter, including handling street money for her mother and husband—convicted criminal (for bribery) Carlos Matos—and printing ballots with deliberately incorrect information on how to vote for Cruz.
Unfortunately, the Board of Ethics has no power to impose extra sanctions even though the commission held a hearing last summer on the very Ramos vs. Cruz race that Tartaglione Matos was participating in. Her punishment is no more than would be assessed to any rank-and-file city employee, despite the fact she committed elections violations while working for the elections office.