Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams showed up at his first foreclosure sale Tuesday and unveiled an executive order to prohibit sheriff's employees or contractors, or their family members, from bidding on foreclosed properties.

"Right now my job is to clean this sheriff's office up, make sure we pass the smell test on everything that we do," Williams told reporters. "I don't think having employees bid on properties at this time is a good thing."

Too many employees in the Sheriff's Office have access to inside information that could be helpful at auctions, he said.

"Our mission is to make sure that the office is transparent, make sure that we're accountable to the public and to the folks who put their money in the Sheriff's Office to bid for properties," Williams said.

Asked for a copy of the executive order, Williams' spokeswoman, Harriet Lessy, provided the following text: "No employee . . . including deputies, administrative staff and/or contractors to the office, are permitted to bid on a property listed for sale today or at any time in the future. That includes, too, members of the immediate family of anyone employed or anyone that resides in the same household as anyone employed by the Office of the Sheriff."

On paper, the new restrictions are significantly stronger than those imposed by Sheriff John Green, who ran the office from 1988 until the end of 2010.

But they do not address the main conflict-of-interest questions that have plagued the sheriff's real estate operations: personal real estate transactions between the sheriff's real estate personnel and the mortgage companies and speculators who frequently buy properties at the sheriff's auctions.

In January 2006, shortly after a report in the Philadelphia Daily News questioned the personal real estate dealings of Darrell Stewart, who ran the sheriff's auctions, Green adopted a new policy prohibiting his real estate personnel from bidding on properties.

The prohibition extended to employees who processed legal documents or other paperwork related to sheriff's sales.

But Green allowed the rest of his employees to participate in the sheriff's auctions and decided it was OK for even his real estate personnel to buy properties from mortgage companies and speculators who pick up real estate at sheriff's sales.

Green retired at the end of 2010 and was replaced by his longtime chief of staff, Barbara Deeley. At the end of her first week in office, she transferred Stewart to a job working at the city prisons. He has since resigned.


Written by Bob Warner for the Philadelphia Inquirer on January 11, 2012.

Early in my administration I met with several people from Women Against Abuse (WAB) to assure them I would continue to support their tireless efforts at ending the unconscionable violence inflicted on women usually by their husbands or boyfriends.

Though October is designated as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we should always remember that three women are murdered everyday by their husbands or boyfriends and assaulted or beaten every nine seconds here in America.

In fact, domestic violence causes more injuries to women than accidents and muggings combined, and 95-percent of those victims are women (an estimated 4 million per year) according to statistics from the Department of Justice.

Domestic violence also includes children, who often bear the emotional scars for years after the physical abuse has ended.

All sorts of societal stresses can trigger abuse, even when the victim attempts to alleviate the situation by getting a protection order from the court.

Sometimes the abuser shows up to intimidate, or even physically approach the person in court, which is why we have been working with WAB to make sure the Deputy Sheriff's who guard the courts are always aware and alert to such situations.

Domestic abuse also happens in same-sex partnerships, all age ranges, ethnicities, economic levels, and even heterosexual men are victims of abuse, which can be as verbally and emotionally harmful as outright physical abuse,

Some of the signs of domestic abuse include: obvious physical trauma such as a black eye; chronic stomach pains; anxiety; depression; unusual absence from work or school; and even substance abuse are often warning signs of a deeper problem.

With that in mind, please join me in making a personal commitment not only during Domestic Violence Awareness month, but to ALWAYS expose this type of violence through education, support and encouragement of its victims, and doing whatever you can to help those organizations like WAB, Women's Way, Women Organized Against Rape, and the many other groups and associations striving hard to make domestic abuse a rare and unusual occurrence in this country.

Meanwhile, we all deserve to be treated with respect and valued as human beings, and to live a life without constant fear and control.