Democratic Rep. Bob Brady is Philadelphia's own Nucky Thompson. He's famous for his patronage and back-door deals, but because the personable Brady has gone out of his way for the past few decades to curry favor with the local journalism establishment, he's rarely called out on it. I wish they ran stories like this before the election, and not after, because it's high past time our state moved to merit selection for judges:
Newly elected Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas M. Nocella credits U.S. Rep. Bob Brady - Philadelphia's Democratic Party boss - for intervening with ward leaders to put him on the ticket.
"He is the one in control," said Nocella, 67, rated qualified for the bench by the Philadelphia Bar Association, despite having been sanctioned by the city Ethics Commission in 2009.
He pointed out that he had done years of free legal work for the party and said the judgeship was his reward. "That's the way it's done in Pennsylvania," he said.
On Jan. 2, he will begin drawing a $165,000 judicial salary. Nocella welcomes the new income because there is a $358,000 IRS lien against him, the state says he ignored local taxes for years, and he has more than $1 million in debts listed in a bankruptcy case.
He is also embroiled in a Common Pleas Court lawsuit accusing him of fraud and deceit in 2005, when he helped sell off property for $507,500 that was owned by a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Manayunk. The property, overlooking the Schuylkill and large enough to hold 10 townhouses, is four blocks up the hill from Manayunk's main shopping area.
Testifying under oath in a deposition, Nocella admitted that he pocketed $60,000 as a consequence of signing a title-company document stating he was the secretary of Straughter-Carter Post 6627 - although he acknowledged that he was never a VFW member and was not authorized to act as secretary.
He called it an "accommodation" and said that without his signature, the deal would not have gone through.
His lawyer, Samuel C. Stretton, said that Nocella's role in the property sale "was one of the stupider things he did" and that he would probably have to cough up some money as restitution to the VFW.
By the way, Judge Nocella, congratulations!