Amid controversy surrounding the city of Philadelphia’s request for proposals for a contract that would create a for-profit legal organization to represent indigent defendants in criminal cases, an attorney involved with one of the candidates in the bid for the contract has stepped away from the project.
Philadelphia attorney Scott DiClaudio, who worked with Daniel-Paul Alva of Philadelphia-based Alva & Associates in developing a proposal for the contract, and who additionally raised concerns among attorneys for postings he made on Facebook, resigned from the bid, according to Alva.
Alva, who was reached Wednesday, declined to comment on DiClaudio’s reasons for leaving the project.
This news comes in tandem with murmurs that an agreement will be signed between the city and Alva. Sources told The Legal that the city will sign the contract this coming Monday with Alva, finalizing the agreement to establish the office that will represent impoverished defendants in criminal cases where the Public Defender’s Office has a conflict.
But Alva said Wednesday that he hadn’t heard anything from the city regarding signing a contract Monday.
“Unless the city gives me this contract prior to Monday, there’s no way that I’m signing it without reviewing it. There wouldn’t be enough time to review it,” Alva told The Legal. “I have no reason to believe there’s anything sinister in there, but this is a serious issue that needs serious attention.”
Sources also alleged that DiClaudio, while no longer part of the proposed organization, is working “behind the scenes” to recruit attorneys to the organization.
Alva said that DiClaudio is no longer involved in any way with his bid for the contract.
“He resigned last week, and I’m not aware of him doing anything other than to tell attorneys he had spoken to beforehand that they now need to direct all their questions to me and that he hopes that they’ll continue with the project,” Alva said. “That was my understanding with Mr. DiClaudio, and I have no reason to believe he would do anything else but that.”
Reached for comment Wednesday, DiClaudio said he would call back, but did not do so by press time.
The concern surrounding the matter stems from the nature of the contract as well as DiClaudio’s Facebook postings. The Legal obtained screenshots of the two postings made by DiClaudio.
In one, from September 7, DiClaudio shared a posting by another page titled “American White History Month 2,” whose avatar reads, “Never Apologize for Being White.”
The posting, which DiClaudio shared with the comment, “Well said,” reads in full, “Muslims: Are you unhappy with our countries? Are you offended by our culture? Would you prefer to live under Sharia law? Then we have a simple solution for you. Get the fuck out of our countries, and go back to the monstrous shitholes you came from. You can live under Muslim rule there and enjoy it as much as you like. Infidel nations.”
DiClaudio told The Legal last week that the posting was sent to him by someone else and that he shared it from his iPhone without realizing that it originated on the “American White History Month 2″ page or that it was directed at Muslims.
DiClaudio said he also did not see the “Never Apologize for Being White” avatar.
“It was shared from my iPhone. I obviously didn’t take enough care in reading it through,” DiClaudio said, adding that he shared it out of “patriotic sentiment, not because of the message it contained.”
DiClaudio said he had never heard of the “American White History Month 2″ page.
“I am absolutely not a member of nor have ever been part of American White History Month,” DiClaudio said. “I am of the belief that this is the greatest country in the world. However, I have in no way ever discriminated against any race or religion and I sincerely apologize if I offended anyone by having that cartoon on my Facebook. I wish I was more vigilant in offhand or flip comments that I’ve made on Facebook.”
In another posting that appears to be from that same day, DiClaudio joins others in commenting on the page of Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Beth Grossman and congratulating her on 20 years of service.
DiClaudio writes: “Awesome. I almost got to four. ;) I have been representing scum for almost 20 [years] though.”
DiClaudio said the comment was a reference to an inside joke between him and Grossman.
“Beth is a longtime friend and colleague of mine and often within our community of criminal defense, DAs or police officers will make offhand comments [such as], ‘How is it representing people from the dark side?’ or ‘How do you sleep at night?’ Beth’s inside joke with me is, ‘How is it representing scum?’” DiClaudio said, noting that the smiley face in the comment shows it was meant in jest.
“It was a response to a joke she makes to me,” DiClaudio said. “You can ask any judge, ADA, public defender, client, I represent each of my clients zealously. If anything, my reputation is for being overzealous. And it wasn’t a post, it was a comment to her post.”
However, in a statement, Grossman denied joking with DiClaudio in that fashion.
“For 20 years, I have been an assistant district attorney with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office,” Grossman said in a statement. “In those two decades, I have served and continue to serve the people of the city and county of Philadelphia to the best of my abilities. For the past six years, I have had the privilege of overseeing the Public Nuisance Task Force, which actively engages citizens, the police, government agencies, and community groups in an effort to abate or close drug houses and businesses, nuisance bars, and houses of prostitution. I have known Mr. DiClaudio for my entire professional career, and although I have teased him for leaving the District Attorney’s Office, he and I do not and have never had an inside joke in which I asked him, ‘How is it representing scum?’ I have never posited that question to him nor do I refer to Mr. DiClaudio’s clients as ‘scum.’”
Alva told The Legal last week that he was “disappointed” by DiClaudio’s Facebook postings.
“Mr. DiClaudio, like everyone else, is subject to review to see whether or not he still remains a viable part of this contract,” Alva said. “I’m hoping he can explain [the Facebook postings] to my satisfaction. If he can, then I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Additionally, Philadelphia City Councilmen Dennis O’Brien and William K. Greenlee issued a resolution September 12 authorizing the City Council’s Committee on Law and Government to investigate and hold hearings regarding, among other things, the transparency of the city’s request for proposal for the conflict-counsel contract. The hearing has been slated for October 7, said Matthew G. Braden, O’Brien’s chief of staff.
Braden told The Legal last week that the councilmen were concerned with the nature of the contract as well as with the city’s handling of the RFP.
“It’s about the process by which this has played itself out — with a lack of process and lack of transparency — it’s really about what’s going to happen with the representation of clients,” Braden said.
Braden also questioned where the contract would ultimately be beneficial for indigent clients.
“This [proposal] is set up for a one-year contract with the option to renew in the next few years,” Braden said. “Most cases take more than one year to go through the system. By doing it this way, [City] Council influence and input is not required. Anything more than a year requires council input.”
The question, Braden said, is why is the proposal requesting a contract for only one year?
“What happens to all the cases if they don’t renew? It doesn’t benefit folks who need the representation in a big way,” he said.
Alva said last week that he initially had the same concerns and had proposed a three-year contract but was told by the city that it was bound by its own charter to only enter into one-year contracts.
Alva said the one-year contract he expects to sign, however, includes the option to renew the contract annually for three additional years.
Everett Gillison, the chief of staff to Mayor Michael A. Nutter, did not return calls seeking comment.