Thursday, September 5, 2019

Angry Mayor's Office Puts Philly Mag On Double Secret Probation

By Ralph Cipriano

In case you missed it, the thin-skinned mayor's office has responded to my latest DROP story published by Philly mag by placing all of the reporters and editors of that publication on double secret probation!

Victor Fiorillo of Philly mag is reporting that when he tried to find out some routine information about city regulations regarding recreational vehicles, he had to run through a gauntlet of three official city spokespersons before he was told of a new policy regarding all requests for information from anybody who works for Philly mag.

"We have a new protocol for all Philly mag press requests," the third and final spokesperson told Fiorillo. "They have to be placed by" Tom McGrath, the editor in chief of Philly mag, "directly to our Chief of Staff Jim Engler. Once approved we can move forward."

This new top-down bureaucratic system of gaining information from City Hall pooh-bahs applies only to Philly mag, Fiorillo reports:

"After a couple of calls to City Hall and Philly Mag editors, it became clear that the reason for this major shift -- a protocol that the magazine never experienced during the John Street or Michael Nutter mayoral administrations -- was Ralph Cipriano's fascinating, maddening, and downright damning expose about a new way that city officials are using the highly controversial DROP program to waste taxpayer money."

"Cipriano calls it the 'triple dip,' and I'll let his story speak for itself. It should outrage you -- especially if you pay any taxes in Philadelphia."

Apparently, Philly mag has done other things to piss off our thin-skinned mayor but the DROP story, according to Fiorillo's report on what one City Hall official told him, "was most certainly the 'tipping point,' as the official put it."

In Fiorillo's story, McGrath is quoted as saying that the mayor's new policy regarding his magazine "not only strikes me as small and petulant, but dangerous. Their new policy seems to be that they'll only deal with news organizations that don't criticize them."

My favorite part of the Fiorillo story is when he reaches out to mayoral chief of staff Engler through editor McGrath, and got back this comment: "Recent coverage has clearly demonstrated that Philadelphia Magazine is more interested in sensationalizing issues rather than reporting them fairly. In light of this realization we have decided to adjust our procedure."

Translation: "You're out! Finished at Faber! Expelled! I want you off this campus at 9 a.m. Monday. And I'm sure you'll be happy to know that I have notified your local draft boards and told them you are now all, all, eligible for military service!"

I've been a reporter for more than 40 years. There is only one other time that an entire bureaucracy has responded to my legitimate requests for information in this fashion. It happened during the 1990s, when, as a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, I was hot on the trail of the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, archbishop of Philadelphia. At the time, His Eminence, as he insisted on being called, was publicly closing largely black and Latino churches and schools in poor urban neighborhoods because of an alleged shortage of cash. And at the same time he was privately rehabbing his seaside villa, redecorating the cardinal's mansion, and constructing a secret multimedia communications center on top of his headquarters in Center City, without building permits, in violation of city law.

When the cardinal found out that somebody had leaked the documents that proved the cardinal's lavish and secret spending, he hit the roof. And then he placed me on an official secret enemies list of reporters that the church no longer spoke to.

He also dispatched his PR flacks to tell the editor of the Inquirer that if they ran the story, he would personally launch an economic boycott of the newspaper. The Inky immediately decided that if they had to choose between me and the cardinal, they were going with His Eminence. The editors promptly offered Bevilacqua a weekly column that would run in their newspaper. At the same time they were shutting down me and my supposedly "anti-Catholic" story.

Profiles in courage, right?

When I took my anti-Catholic story about the cardinal's lavish and secret spending to the National Catholic Reporter, Tom Roberts, the managing editor of that publication, called the archdiocese personally to find out why they weren't responding to any of my requests for comment.

Roberts called me back and said do you know that you're on the official enemies list and that nobody at the archdiocese is allowed to speak to you? This was all news to me. I had been officially ex-communicated by the archbishop.

So we set up a system where I would send my questions to Roberts, he would send them to the flak at the archdiocese, and she would respond to Roberts, so she could adhere to the policy where she didn't personally ever speak to me.

Congratulations, Mayor Kenney, you're now in fabulous company!

And I would have to say the arrogance and foolishness of the cardinal's lavish spending while feathering his own nest pales in comparison to the lavish and foolish spending of the DROP program, which at last count, has topped more than $1.5 billion!

So, Mayor Kenney, and your legion of official spokespeople, thanks for going that extra mile to make sure that my latest DROP story gets the attention it deserves!

Postscript: After Philly mag threatened to sue the city over its new "separate but equal" press policy, the city solicitor claimed the new policy, which had been in force for a couple of weeks, was just a "proposed concept" that had never been "formally adopted."

Translation: the angry mayor's office never ran it's silly new policy past a lawyer before they implemented it. When they finally did consult a lawyer, and found out they were going to lose in court, they had to invent an excuse to claim it never really happened.

Final score on this dustup: a complete victory for Philly mag, and an embarrassing defeat for Mayor Kenney and his not ready for prime time players.


  1. The inflammatory nature of your charges and the heretical picture of his Eminence laid to rest will drive his Honor the Mayor to a drunken rage.

    Well done. It's time to drive the scoundrel out of office.

  2. If you can't draw a crowd with this STORY, it's time for PLAN B.

    Vincenzo would have made a great Mayor compared to the CLOWN who was his intern and rose to the rank of bagman.

    People look at Kenney's alternative and prefer their current Mob Mayor, to the Italian Mob Guy who would replace him.

    Brand Recognition is King, and it takes a lot to destroy it.

  3. Ralph
    Congratulations on scooping the city's major newspaper again. Even their weak opinion piece on criticizing the Mayor's office for "freezing" Philadlephia Magazine's access

  4. Here's some inside info if you ever do a followup. There are more than just contractors who are triple dipping. Try looking at the "appointees" of boards and commissions. 

    In fact, Mayor Kenney has appointed several Drop-outs, including most recently- a civil service commissioner.

  5. Seen in a small town newspaper preceding an article regarding an arrest :

    "The following is based on information received from a law enforcement agency. The person named is innocent unless proven otherwise in court".

    Defense attorneys should insist that the media prints this disclaimer before every article disparaging a defendant, no one really believes when an attorney says again and again that my client is innocent and will fight all charges. That tired statement has lost its meaning and besides people believe so you are the attorney getting paid to say it.

    This disclaimer should go without saying but in reality, once the prosecution uses a news outlet to run with their story, there is no other story needed, journalists as well as the public eat it up and then swears to it as truth. Journalists still, unfortunately, believe in representatives of their government working for the justice department as truthful, they may not believe a politician but they certainly believe what comes out of prosecutors mouth.

    The media should be printing this voluntarily but as most breaking news centers on criminal cases handed to them by prosecutors why bite the hand that feeds, besides it someone else problem. They were just reporting the news, too bad it impacts an innocents liberty and livelihood and reputation.

  6. Stories like this really make me wonder about the IQ of public officials. The article quite fairly gave the mayor's reasons for rehiring Ruben David, i.e. his replacement and two other employees abruptly left so David was called out of retirement to replace 3 people because he was the only one trained for the job.

    The mayor should have stuck to that story, which is somewhat plausible.

    At the very least, the city pension should stop while a retiree returns to work for the city, even as a contractor.


Thoughtful commentary welcome. Trolling, harassing, and defaming not welcome. Consistent with 47 U.S.C. 230, we have the right to delete without warning any comments we believe are obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.