Two scandals at the Independence Seaport Museum don't touch its former chair M. Walter D'Alessio, as the long-time real estate mogul stays put as chair of Philadelphia's secretive economic development nonprofit.
I don't remember how I ran across this second-hand report of a story from the Philadelphia Daily News that isn't to be found online anymore. Reporter Bob Warner recounts the double scandal at the Independence Seaport Museum (EIN 23-1584971 Form 990):
- former director John S. Carter pleaded guilty in June to defrauding the organization out of $1.5 million,
- state Senator Vincent Fumo, a former board member, is under a federal indictment for, among other things, personal use of the museum's yachts for vacations in Martha's Vineyard (see page 187 of the pdf file of the indictment).
At the end of the article, it mentions that the board chair while this was going on was M. Walter D'Alessio, who stepped down in 2005, but remains head of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. (EIN 23-6050858, read on), the city's lead agency for economic development projects.
Don't bother looking for a Form 990 for PIDC. One of the weird twists of nonprofit regulation in the US is that a "private" nonprofit created by a government unit (in this case, the city of Philadelphia) is exempt from Form 990 disclosure, while a genuinely private nonprofit is not. So a $25,000 neighborhood grassroots organization has to lay bare its financing on the Internet, but a "private" organization that makes hundreds of millions in loans and grants affecting the lives of thousands of people—nothing. The best one can do is take a look at the PIDC annual review, which has a few talking points about their activities and nothing even close to a financial statement.
And it's not as if one can say that the leaders of these organizations have the experience to enable them to oversee this kind of spending. What the Independence Seaport Museum case shows is that even the heaviest hitters are incredibly lax (or willing to look the other way) when it comes to basic stewardship responsibilities.
With very little in the way of hard data, I was able to find this one official record on PIDC, a contract compliance analysis/review by the Pennsylvania Department of General Services. It shows that the organization has 68 employees:
- Seven officials and managers, six white male, one white female.
- Forty-two professionals, seventeen men and twenty-five women, including just four black men and six black women (the majority of Philadephia's population is African-American)
- An office and clerical staff of nineteen, of which twelve are black women.
The organization is on notice from the PDGS for underutilization of minorities. So again, what little information we have calls into question the stewardship of the organization and the commitment of its leadership to community goals.
A couple of things seem clear to me:
- Mr. D'Alessio needs to step down as head of PIDC, based on the poor stewardship shown with respect to the Independence Seaport Museum.
- The city of Philadelphia needs to come clean with full financial reporting and disclosure of its private nonprofit ventures and the compensation, perks, and business expenses of its leaders.