An Open Letter to Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams from Philadelphia NOW
Philadelphia NOW has joined with the women of Philadelphia’s City Council to demand that District Attorney Seth Williams remove Assistant DAs Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo & Patrick Blessington for their involvement in spreading sexist, racist, homophobic and plain old damaging emails all in the name of fun while working in the Office of the Attorney General. They have started a petition to put pressure on the DA’s office.
The scandal broke last year when Attorney General Kathleen Kane disclosed that hundreds of sexually explicit emails had been shared during former Governor Tom Corbett’s leadership when he was Attorney General, and has had ongoing fallout. Please join the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in signing the petition to the Philadelphia District Attorney (DA), Seth Williams to remove Assistant DA’s: Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo & Patrick Blessington from the DA’s office.
Open Letter From Philadelphia NOW to Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams:
Philadelphia Chapter of National Organization for Women (NOW) is deeply dismayed at the lack of acknowledgement, much less meaningful action, regarding the disturbing conduct of your employees. Prosecutors Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo & Patrick Blessington misused the government’s servers in the Attorney General of Pennsylvania’s Office to exchange, view, and disseminate emails with content devaluing and demeaning and hateful towards women, members of the LGBT community and people of color. It has been proven that these men abused their position of public trust and power when they took part in and condoned this behavior. Emails depicted women in compromising sexual situations, African American babies in caricatures depicting violence, and the ridiculing of gay men. This content is heinous in that it perpetuates stereotypes and threatens the progress that we have made. As public servants sworn to uphold the law, they should have immediately said STOP. The incident should have been reported and investigated with appropriate action taken. Instead, the images were circulated and the behavior condoned. Imagine that a victim of violence perpetuated by misogynistic, racist, and homophobic attitudes having to tell their story and place their fate in the hands of a misogynistic, racist, and homophobic prosecutor. Lines were crossed. Prosecutors, lawyers, and judges should limit their interpersonal relationships so as to keep the system fair. Instead, they chose to disregard those ethical obligations. And yet these men continue to have active prosecutorial roles. Did they disclose their misuse of public resources at the time of being hired by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office? Did they mention the private relationship between prosecutors and the judges, hence leading to the compromising of the judiciary by members of the executive branch, a violation of the doctrine of separation of powers? Since there was a documented complaint to the EEOC regarding the inhospitable work environment for women in the AG’s office, were they queried about during the hiring process? This abusive hate-fueled conduct undermines the public’s confidence in not only these prosecutors, but in the entire criminal justice system. The public’s trust in your office can only be restored if individuals who are unfit for the role of prosecutor are removed. The continued presence of these individuals with poor judgement, to which they have admitted, weakens the integrity of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. You said that you did not want to “just send a message” by firing them. Regardless, a message is being sent to Philadelphians that such behavior is acceptable and tolerated in our highest office of law enforcement.
Sensitivity training is not enough. Sending us a text message (with a follow up request) to meet after you have already decided on a course of action is meaningless. That was an inappropriate way to address this issue and minimizes the seriousness of the situation. Failing to understand how serious this is makes it even worse. You have left us no choice but to ask the public to weigh in on this matter of grave concern.
We demand that you remove Prosecutors Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo & Patrick Blessington from the District Attorney’s Office, where they have become a distraction to the work of that Office. It is imperative that the integrity and public trust be restored in the District Attorney’s Office.