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There’s no question that 2011 was a transitional year for the Office of the Philadelphia Sheriff, the independently elected office with the limited responsibilities of transporting criminals, guarding courtrooms, and conducting sheriff sales of mortgage and tax delinquent properties.

In January of that year, Sheriff John Green stepped down amid questions over the office’s financial doings during the course of his two-decade tenure, especially his office’s relationship with two contracted companies.

Deputy Sheriff Barbara Deeley, assuming the role of acting sheriff, stepped into Green’s role, and, almost immediately, removed most of the real estate division’s employees and severed ties with those companies.

The implication was that Deeley was cleaning house. But, as AxisPhilly reported recently, the house cleaning also represented a redistribution of contracts from one group of politically connected companies to another group.

But the cozy relationship with such insider firms goes beyond the sheriff’s doors.

While Deeley was serving as acting sheriff, the city’s Revenue Department attempted to redistribute work from the Sheriff’s Office to a different company owned by the now-indicted Mitchell Rubin, and ostensibly run by Deborah Brady, the wife of U.S. Congressman and Philadelphia Democratic party boss Bob Brady, according to a legal filing obtained by AxisPhilly.

The city’s contractual relationships with the company, Philadelphia Writ Services, have been reported before. In 2007, the Philadelphia Inquirer first reported that the city held a $1 million no-bid contract with the company, which was, at least then, owned by Mitchell Rubin and of which Deborah Brady held the position of executive director, a position that then paid $100,000.  Philadelphia Writ Services serves court writs on behalf of the city.

But there appears to have been an attempted expansion of its duties in 2011, according to a decision of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board in a complaint filed by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 on behalf of Philadelphia sheriff deputies. The ruling in favor of the deputies forced the city to reverse a decision to shift work from the sheriff’s office to Philadelphia Writ Services. (The filing calls the company Process Writ Services, but sources tell AxisPhilly that it was actually Philadelphia Writ Services.)

The work — the obscure function of posting “petition and rule” notices, indicating tax liens or delinquencies prior to a sheriff’s sale — had been a task of the sheriff’s office deputies for at least 16 years. But in 2011 the city attempted to have Philadelphia Writ Services, the company owned by Rubin and run by Mrs. Brady, do it instead — prompting Lodge 5 to cry foul on the basis that swap represented an unfair labor practice, as the city hadn’t negotiated the change. Presumably it also reduced income to the sheriff’s deputies doing the work.

The filing does not explain why the city had made this decision nor the cost of the contract — though it makes reference to the fact that Philadelphia Writ Services was able to log the work online, while the Sheriff’s Office maintained a hard copy of the records. City officials did not respond to a request for comment.

AxisPhilly also attempted to reach Philadelphia Writ Service, which, according to public records, still holds a $700,000 contract with the city.  No one answered at the phone number listed for it, and the company, apparently, has no answering machine.

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