Philly Ethics Board slaps DA Seth Williams with record $62,000 fine

It’s the highest fine in the Board’s 10-year history.

Left: Seth Williams, painting. Right: Seth Williams, IRL.

Left: Seth Williams, painting. Right: Seth Williams, IRL.

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The Philadelphia Board of Ethics has reached a settlement with District Attorney Seth Williams for $62,000 for failing to report 89 gifts and five sources of income between 2010 and 2015, the largest settlement in the Board’s 10-year history.

The report states that 20 of the gifts Williams failed to disclose were from people “who had a financial interest that the District Attorney was able to substantially affect through official action.” These people included criminal defense attorneys Scott DiClaudio and Richard Hoy, as well as subordinate employees in Williams’ own office, Pierre Gomez and Daniel Kearney. It is against city ethics laws for city officials to receive gifts totaling greater than $99 in one year from people they can help through actions of their office.

Gifts ranged from tickets to Sixers and Eagles games to free roof repair on his home worth about $45,000 and $20,000 worth of travel expenses to places like Las Vegas to this oil painting of Williams. The unreported gifts totaled more than $160,000.

Typically, the Ethics Board cites and reaches relatively minor violations and fines. In December, for instance, the committee to elect Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney was fined $2,000 for missing the deadline to report spending on his inauguration and transition.

The investigation into Williams began last July, according to the report, when one of his lawyers told the Ethics Board he’d omitted numerous gifts he should have reported. And from 2010 to 2015, the Board of Ethics said Williams did not report any gifts on his annual filings. After an investigation that included subpoenas with Williams’ office and information taken from others, the Board of Ethics determined the number of gifts he should have reported to be 89.

In December, Williams talked about his failures to report finances for the first time to Newsworks’ Dave Davies. He said some of the gifts were for travel for official business and some from financial problems dealing with his divorce.

“You know, when I had difficult financial times as a result of me trying to maintain a lifestyle for my daughters,” he said, “keeping them in the school they were in, not having to sell the house where they were living, I’m very thankful that, you know, friends helped me out when I had difficulty with my gas bill.”

The Feds opened an investigation against Williams last year. He has said he will not be charged with anything.

Williams is running for re-election this spring in a Democratic primary that features four other candidates: former city managing director Richard Negrin, former Philly prosecutors Beth Grossman, Michael Untermeyer and Joe Khan, and Municipal Court Judge Teresa Carr Deni.

“I recognize my own personal finances weren’t the best, and I apologize to the citizens of Philadelphia for not having reported [gifts] every year,” Williams told Newsworks, “but I think they’re to going to give me the benefit of the doubt and listen.”