John Street’s son denies favors

Sharif Street

Lawyer says he did not benefit when his dad was PHA chair

 

Local attorney Sharif Street did not benefit from the fact his father, former Mayor John F. Street, chaired the board of the Philadelphia Housing Authority during a period when his son billed the PHA for hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a spokesperson for Sharif Street.

The younger Street worked at Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen during the period under investigation. The firm, which has since gone out of business, had done business long before Sharif Street joined it, said Harriet Lessy, his spokesperson.

“They had that business for many years before he was an associate there,” she said on Friday, declining to comment further.

Sharif Street left the firm in 2008 before it was dissolved.

John Street chaired the PHA board from 2004 until March when he, along with the rest of the board, resigned in the wake of the scandal that erupted after the firing of former executive director Carl Greene. The board’s resignation paved the way for a federal takeover of the agency, still under the control of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Federal investigators looking into the allegations against Greene also raised questions about John Street.

While his father was at the helm, Sharif Street billed the PHA for $700,000.

News broke Friday in The Philadelphia Inquirer that the former mayor was the subject of an investigation by the state Ethics Commission, which is probing the fact that his son’s former law firm collected millions in legal fees from the Philadelphia Housing Authority while Street chaired the board.

John Street did not respond to requests for comment from the Tribune on Friday.

He told the Inquirer that he was sure a full investigation would vindicate him.

“Hopefully, Wolf Block or PHA will make all the relevant information available so we can move on,” Street told the newspaper.

According to published reports, John Street, on at least five occasions, voted to give PHA contracts to Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen.

A report by HUD’s inspector general, released earlier this year, said the chairman’s votes constituted a conflict of interest.

In September, the Ethics Commission subpoenaed PHA billing records from Wolf Block and according to Sherry A. Swirsky, deputy general counsel for litigation with the PHA, the agency is in the process of turning them over to the state.

“It’s an ongoing series of requests,” Swirsky said, noting that not everything has been turned over to the state so far. “We’re in the process of processing everything for turn over in the near future.”

She expected that process to be wrapped up in the next week.

Ethics Commission officials requested all bills involving Sharif Street and a broader set of bills from Wolf Block between December 2004 and the end of 2007.

Officials with the Ethics Commission declined to comment on an ongoing investigation.

The commission has the authority to fine public officials who violate state ethics law and order them to pay restitution.

In addition, the commission can refer matters to state and federal prosecutors for criminal prosecution.

 

Contact Tribune staff writer Eric Mayes at (215) 893-5742 or emayes@phillytrib.com.

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