Thank you, Mr. President. In early October, the Law and Government Committee held an investigatory hearing regarding the Mayor's request for proposal seeking a private entity to provide legal representation to indigent clients where the Defenders Association is prohibited from providing representation due to a conflict of interest.
The Administration initially proposed a $10 million one-year deal, designed to purposefully avoid City Council input. I called for this hearing after many unsuccessful attempts to persuade the Administration to scrap their plan and start anew.
At the hearing, not one of the ten local, state, and national expert witnesses endorsed the Administration's for-profit model. Additionally, the well-regarded experts illuminated countless fundamental flaws that compromise justice, leave the City ripe for litigation and more unforeseen expenses. There was only one witness at the hearing and only one voice in the entire conversation that believed this for-profit model was a good idea, the Administration.
Subsequent to our hearing, I met with Mayor Nutter on October 18th, 2013 to discuss this defective for-profit model in the hopes that he would change his course. In that conversation, I stated I was not going away on this issue. I respectfully told the Mayor that I am digging in with my staff, because proper legal representation is a constitutional right, and this is an inherently flawed model.
Today, I honor those words by introducing legislation co-sponsored by Councilman Greenlee to address some of those concerns. One measure seeks to establish reporting and auditing requirements for certain contracts for conflict counsel for indigent individuals. This bill will require the Mayor to submit to Council a comprehensive performance and financial audit report. This audit will be performed by a seasoned third party from the indigent defense world and will hold the work of the contracted firm in plain sight for our examination.
The second measure proposes an amendment to The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter which will require City Council approval for certain contracts for one year or less for the purpose of providing legal representation and related services for indigent persons.
I understand that a Charter change is a heavy consideration for this body and our citizens, but we are talking about preserving the constitutional rights of those most vulnerable among us. Therefore, I am very comfortable taking this course of action.
This isn't about being against something. This is about being for something. I am for transparency, inclusiveness and, most importantly, justice.
I have respectfully asked the Administration to scrap the plan and start over numerous times, but to no avail. Metaphorically speaking, there are hills you die on. This is what I tell my staff when we are confronted with issues that present a conflict to our values, personal constitutions, and what is ultimately just and fair.
With my staff in tow, I am now charging up one of those hills. This is a hill you die on. This is the hill I'm dying on.
Thank you, Mr. President.