Ryan Briggs Ryan Briggs is a staff writer and connoisseur of City Hall intrigue, business dealings, neighborhood gossip and local lore. Ryan has studied, worked and resided in Philadelphia since 2004, covering politics and development issues for Hidden City, Next City and Metropolis, amongst other fine publications.
Last week, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell said that a water bill indicating that she had apparently not turned on a tap or flushed a toilet at her official residence for several months was "erroneous." Additional Water Revenue Bureau documents that have surfaced, apparently through a porous bill pay website, seemed to show that Council President Darrell Clarke had not paid his water bill in years. Clarke's office immediately responded with information disputing the seemingly outstanding bill for his home on Jefferson Street in Kensington.
A few hours after his office was notified of the bill listing a balance of nearly $755, the City Paper received a copy of a signed letter from Revenue Department Commissioner Clarena Tolson to Clarke, apologizing for the Council President's account being erroneously charged.
"We regret that due to a problem in our system you had been incorrectly billed," Tolson said in the letter, which did not go into the specific nature of the error.
"We had a problem in our system and we corrected it. The rate there is current. That's probably all I can say about it. We're not in the practice of saying things about our ratepayers who are current in their payment," said Tolson, later reached over the phone.
However, Tolson again declined to discuss any specifics about what the problem was that would cause a water bill to jump hundreds of dollars, or what ratepayers should do if they receive such a bill.
But if two of the 17 Councilmember's water bills received by the City Paper were erroneously generated, issues with the WRB's billing system might be a bigger problem than Tolson admits.
Be it a broken payment system or political funny business, neither would exactly be unprecedented in Philadelphia.
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