PlanPhilly

Former Philly CIO says he was fired over “whistleblower” objections to City Hall’s “racial-hiring” preferences, business practices

Philadelphia’s freshly ousted chief information officer Charlie Brennan is suing Mayor Jim Kenney and other high ranking officials claiming that he was fired for complaining about the city’s unlawful “racial-hiring, retention preferences and pressures,” Philly Mag’s Victor Fiorillo reports.

Brennan alleges that Mayor Kenney “wanted to appease his voter base, ensure re-election, and gather support from minorities by immediately transitioning the government workforce to a large percentage of African-Americans,” at the cost of a more skilled workforce. Brennan says that he fully supports Kenney’s push for a more diverse city government that reflects the city’s demographics, but that he wanted to hire based on skills, not on race or ethnicity. He claims that chief diversity officer Nolan Atkinson told him to hire unqualified African-American and Hispanic staffers; that his IT department was “too white”; that his “white numbers were moving in the wrong direction”; and that there were “too many Asians,” Fiorillo writes.

Brennan says he “objected to that approach,” but that chief administration officer Christine Derenick-Lopez told him that City Council would “skewer” her if the IT department didn’t change its racial composition quickly.

Drawing attention to the city’s contracts with Comcast, Brennan also claims that Derenick-Lopez told him to “take it easy” on the company after it failed to meet deadlines for repair work, per their contractual agreement, in order to present “optics” of a business-friendly environment.

Workforce diversity remains a sticking point for Council. Malcolm Burnley wrote in June 2017 that at a public hearing on Rebuild legislation, Council repeatedly questioned how the initiative would achieve its diversity goals. Council also expressed concern over “the city’s track record on enforcing standards on construction jobs,” Burnley reports, and that “the city’s past reluctance to punish contractors has compromised the credibility of its diversity efforts in the procurement process.”

In response to the suit’s allegations, mayoral spokesperson Mike Dunn says, “We can tell you that this Mayor and this Administration are extremely proud of our commitment to improving the diversity of the City’s workforce so that it is representative of Philadelphia as a whole, and to improving overall workplace climate … We also note that issues concerning Mr. Brennan’s leadership while Chief Innovation Officer have been reported publicly. We will aggressively defend our record on these matters as this litigation moves forward." Jake Blumgart reported in January that Philadelphia’s municipal workforce overrepresents the city’s large white and African-American populations, according to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s 2017 Philadelphia Workforce Diversity Profile Report. However, as Blumgart notes, the report found that the city’s most desirable, high-paying posts are disproportionately filled by white people.

Brennan, 67, became city’s CIO in January 2016. Prior to that he served as the Philadelphia Police Department’s first tech chief in the 1990s, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Juliana Reyes reports.

Councilman Green calls for hearings on the city’s preparations for 2020 Census

City Council adopted a resolution Thursday that authorizes the city’s Committee on Law and Government to conduct hearings on the decennial 2020 Census. The legislation, introduced by Councilman Derek Green (At-Large), comes as a response to the Department of Justice’s request that the Census Bureau include a citizenship question on the upcoming Census.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, Mayor Jim Kenney, Attorney General Josh Shapiro and other elected officials have raised fears that the question “would deter people from participating in the Census,” arguing that an “accurate census count is also essential to a plethora of different populations receiving federal grants and/or monies,” according to a press release from Green’s office.

“With the pace and sophistication of technology, along with the Census Bureau’s funding allocation of $2.814 billion, we can ensure a complete and accurate count and analysis of census data in 2020, in addition to the continuation of a 200+ year history of the Bureau’s exceptional leadership, commitment and transparency to Americans,” said Green.

Take a look at all the Census 2020 questions here.

PSA: Postponing spring announcement

The Streets Department has confirmed that spring hasn’t come yet! The city has postponed the Philly Spring Cleanup, originally scheduled for this Saturday, to Saturday, April 14, “due to the inclement weather forecast.”

You can keep up on the latest developments or register to host a cleanup  here.

About the author

Diana Lu, Community Engagement Editor

Diana runs PlanPhilly’s community outreach and engagement online and in real life. She has spent more than ten years in the non-profit and public sectors working on urban development issues including environmental justice, design-based manufacturing, and community and economic development.  Prior to joining PlanPhilly, Diana worked as the Director of Partnerships and Outreach for 10,000 Small Businesses, a public-private initiative focused strengthening local businesses through revenue generation and local job creation.  Follow Diana on instagram @dianaluwho and email her at dlu@whyy.org.



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