Friday, December 31, 1993

Page: A01

Edition: FINAL

Section: LOCAL


Memo: Copyright 1993 The Philadelphia Inquirer


This story was written by Inquirer staff writer
Thomas Ferrick Jr. based on his reporting and that of
Daniel Rubin, Lea Sitton, Mark Fazlollah, Craig R. McCoy,
Sergio Bustos, Neill A. Borowski, Alan Hasbrouck, Pam Belluck,
Rich Henson, Fawn Vrazo, David Lee Preston and Wanda Motley.

Like any party activist, Francis X. McDade was a busy man on Election Day in Philadelphia last month.

McDade, a Democratic committeeman in Olney's 42d Ward, worked as the voting-machine inspector in his division on Nov. 2. His job was to reset the machine after each person voted.

His wife, Eileen, was judge of elections at the same polling place in the 16th division. Her job was to oversee all balloting.

The two McDades voted from the 16th that day. By absentee ballot, two of their three children did, too.

There is one thing askew in this family portrait of political activism.

None of the McDades lives in the 16th division, or in the 42d Ward, or in Philadelphia.

They live in Montgomery County.

While the McDades' voter-registration cards list their address as 217 E. Robat St., a two-story rowhouse owned by a fellow Democratic committeeman, they have owned a graystone Victorian twin in Cheltenham Township since 1971. Public documents have listed them at that address for years.

McDade, 55, a machinist who works for Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., which publishes The Inquirer and Daily News, declined requests for an interview as did his wife.

As part of its examination of the special election in the Second State Senate District, The Inquirer looked at the voting and registration habits of the ward leaders, elected officials and committee people in that district.

The examination found cases of people who don't live where they are registered, of ward leaders who reside outside the city, of committee people whose houses serve as the voting address of relatives who live elsewhere.

In the Nov. 2 special election, Second District voters told of campagn workers who touted a "new way" of voting - casting absentee ballots. But there are also old-fashioned ways of voting - politics as it's been practiced for years in the wards of Philadelphia.

In this world, where a person lives and where a person registers to vote can be in different sections of town. The voter can live out of town. Or even out of state.

In this world, some children never leave the nest - at least when it comes to voting - even when they are in their 30s and have houses and families elsewhere.

In this world, official voter lists show as many as a dozen adults registered in two- and three-story rowhouses. Or 14 registered from a one- floor apartment above a corner grocery. Or four registered from a funeral home.

No claim is made here that these types of cases are unique to the Second District or to one party. The Second is just one slice of the city: Only about 15 percent of the city's 800,000 voters live there.

Determining where a person resides for voting purposes is not an exact science. A lot of complex questions have to be answered, from where the voter spends most of his or her time to more abstract issues such as the voter's intent.

If found to have lied on a registration card or to have engaged in what state law calls "unlawful voting," the voter can be punished by fines, jail terms or both. In practice, prosecutions are rare. The last time a Philadelphian was convicted of vote fraud was 1979.

State Rep. Matthew J. Cianciulli Jr. was sentenced to three years in federal prison for his role in getting people who lived outside his district to register - including about 20 who voted from his corner grocery store in South Philadelphia.

Frederick L. Voigt said that what Cianciulli did was an example of ''wretched excess" that caught the attention of federal investigators.

In general, though, the courts have given the benefit of the doubt to voters so as not to deny them the right to vote, according to Voigt, executive secretary of the Committee of Seventy, an independent group that monitors elections in Philadelphia.

"There are indicators of residence, which usually involve certain questions: Can a person live there? Is it a store? Where do you get your mail? Where do you insure your car?" Voigt said. "But basically, if you can live there and you say you do live there - for voting purposes - the courts have treated this with a degree of liberality."

Election boards treat disputes over residency as administrative matters. Sometimes the boards hold hearings on disputed cases. If they find against the voter, there is no penalty or fine. They simply strike the name from the rolls.

The city commissioners, who oversee elections, find thousands of cases each year of voters who have moved, left town or died. They strike the names from the rolls.

The commissioners' office also sends out periodic first-class mailings to various wards and investigates all letters returned as undeliverable. And it gets lists several times each year from the state Bureau of Vital Statistics of people who have died. Can someone slip through the net?

"Yep," said Bob Lee, the city's voter-registration administrator. "If we don't get a return from the post office or the occupant telling us a voter doesn't live there anymore, we can't follow it because we don't have the lead."

The experts say the system counts on voters and political leaders to let the city know who has changed addresses. Not everyone does.

Take Lee's boss, for example.

Margaret Tartaglione is chair of the city commissioners. In addition to overseeing elections, she is also Democratic leader of the 62d Ward.

Seven people are registered to vote from her home at 1407 Van Kirk St. in the Northeast. Most are family members. One of them is her daughter, Mary Ann, 30, who voted in November, using that address.

Public documents indicate Mary Ann moved this spring to the 63d Ward - which is outside the Second District - to live on the 600 block of Hoffnagle Street.

The law allows voters to cast ballots from their old addresses if they have moved less than 30 days before an election. Otherwise they must register from their new residences.

Contacted at her Hoffnagle Street home, Mary Ann Tartaglione declined to comment. Her mother also declined, referring all questions to the city lawyers handling queries on election matters.

For ward leaders and committee people, ability to deliver votes enhances power, prestige, and access to patronage jobs and street money. They know every vote matters.

The superheated contest between Democrat William G. Stinson and Republican Bruce Marks is proof of that. Of 40,573 votes cast in the special election, Stinson won by 461. That averages to fewer than two votes per division.

In races like that, even a modest rowhouse can be a center of power.


The rowhouse on 3355 N. Mascher St. has seen better days.

Its mud-brown stucco walls are sprayed with graffiti. The ground floor
windows are broken. The mauve mini-blinds are tattered and shut.

This is the address of Joan Hughes and Phyllis M. Wildonger - mother and daughter - who also serve as Democratic committee people. In Philadelphia, committee people are elected every fourth primary election by voters from the same party in their division.

Phyllis is the niece of Patricia Hughes, the former city councilwoman and Democratic leader of the Seventh Ward, who lives on nearby Kip Street.

Phyllis has a patronage job at the Philadelphia Parking Authority. She was active as a street worker in the Stinson campaign.

Six people voted out of 3355 Mascher on Nov. 2. Two lived there at the time.

Two others - Phyllis Wildonger and her husband, Steven - were found last week at dinnertime at their home on East Cornwall Street in Kensington, which is in another ward and outside the Second Senate District.

"I have nothing to say," she said, then added, "I just moved here two weeks before the election."

The couple has had mail forwarded to the Cornwall Street home for a year. Their drivers' licenses also list that as their residence. So does a Stinson campaign finance report listing expenses paid to Phyllis Wildonger between June and November.

Two other Mascher Street voters were found closer to the old home - about 10 blocks away on Reese Street.

One of them was Frances Hughes, Phyllis' younger sister. The other is her husband, Lawrence R. Kauffman.

Frances said that she "used to live" on Mascher Street, but added that Kauffman never lived in the house. He said he had.

It's been "10 years since I lived there," he said. He said that he and Frances had "always been registered from Mascher Street. I had no reason to change it back."

He said that he and Frances go to Hancock and Ontario, to a legion post, to vote. "It's easier for me to walk up there," he said. If he had changed his registration to the Reese Street address, he said, he and his wife would have to vote at a Spanish-speaking polling place, which they did not want to do.

"It's the same district and everything," he said. "Just a different polling place."

For her part, Phyllis Wildonger says she was entitled to vote in the November election from her old home. "My residence is still on Mascher Street. It is my mother's house. It is my primary residence."

The house on Mascher Street, which had been owned by Joan and Daniel B. Hughes Jr., was sold at sheriff's sale this month.


Bill Rieger can regale you with tales about the area around his house on Rising Sun Avenue, a few blocks behind Temple University Hospital.

How it used to be an all-German neighborhood. How his family has lived there for 100 years. How W.C. Fields used to live across the street.

W.C. Fields is long gone from the neighborhood. There is reason to think that Bill Rieger is, too.

Rieger, a state representative from the 179th District and Democratic leader of the 43d Ward, is still registered from 1141 Rising Sun Ave. He and his wife voted using that address on Nov. 2.

He spends his time at another home he owns on Frankford Avenue, eight-and- one-half miles north of 1141 Rising Sun.

The Frankford Avenue house, which Rieger has owned since 1976, is outside his House district, his ward and the Second Senate District.

As early as 1978, Rieger was questioned about the home in Frankford Avenue. He said that he had bought it for his son and that he lived there from time to time.

When political rivals conducted early-morning stakeouts of both homes during the 1988 Democratic primary, they only found him emerging from the one in Frankford Avenue, according to Alan McHale, who was the campaign manager of Ben Ramos, Rieger's opponent in that race and now a deputy mayor.

"He was never, ever at the Rising Sun address (in the mornings)," McHale said.

Ramos complained to the State Ethics Commission, whose chairman wrote to Rieger informing him "a serious question exists as to whether you have violated other laws concerning the requirement that you reside in your legislative district."

The commission referred the matter to the state Attorney General, who took no action, according to spokesman Robert Gentzel.

Today, the title is still in the name of Rieger, his wife and son. Rieger's green Cadillac with House of Representative plates is still routinely berthed in the driveway. So is his red Buick Park Avenue, leased by the state for $557 a month.

And Rieger continues to maintain Rising Sun Avenue is his home.

"It's bull-, it's bull-," he said this week by phone from his Frankford Avenue address. He said his son owns the Frankford Avenue house and that "my wife is arthritic and she lives up here."

Two days after the election he suffered a heart attack, he said. "My wife is up here a lot. And then I had the heart attack and I was alone down there (on Rising Sun) with no one to take care of me."


Fortunato "Fred" Perri Jr., 31, is Republican leader of the 23d Ward. His father, Fred Sr. is a former state legislator and ward leader, who now works in the city court system.

The family home at 1320 Arrott St. is owned by the father. The son is listed on voting records as living in the house since 1972. He voted Nov. 2 using the Arrott Street address.

Fred Jr. also owns a home in Bucks County, one he bought in 1992 on Meadowbrook Road in Upper Southampton.

His telephone number is listed as this address in the Bucks County directory. State records show his drivers license from the Meadowbrook Road.

Contacted by The Inquirer, Perri first said he was living in Upper Southampton and correctly added that ward leaders can live outside their wards.

When it was pointed out that Perri voted out of his Arrott Street address, Perri amended his statement to say he lived in both places.

"I've been living there off and on, going back and forth," he said, declining to estimate what percent of the time his family was at the Meadowbrook address.

"I don't think there's anything improper," he said. "Your casual readers are going to draw their own conclusion. Whatever conclusions they draw is entirely up to them."


Finally, a visit to the Rotondo family.

Its base of power is the 18th division of the 43d Ward in Hunting Park. Anthony is a Democratic committeeman there and served as judge of elections on Nov. 2.

On Election Day, four people voted from a funeral home at 529 Rising Sun Ave. that once belonged to Rotondo's family. None of them lives there.

Rotondo and his wife, Karen, are registered to vote from a house across the street at 534 Rising Sun. They voted from that address on Nov. 2.

A Spanish-speaking woman who answered the door at 534 said that five Rotondos lived there. A next-door neighbor said they had moved out "years ago."

Records list an address for Anthony and Karen in the Holmesburg section, which is in the Fifth Senatorial District.

Among the funeral-home voters are Rotondo's mother, Theresa, his grandfather and his sister.

The fourth voter is Joseph F. Toland Jr., whose mother said he has lived in New Jersey for three or four years. "He does not vote," Teresa Klein said of her son, a roofer.

Records show that Toland was registered to vote from the funeral home in 1989 and that he has voted in nine elections since then - seven times by absentee ballot.

Efforts to talk with Toland were unsuccessful.

Rotondo, who is a clerk in the Register of Wills office, did not respond to messages left last week at his home and city office. Last month he said, "I really don't have anything to say because whatever I say, you're going to misconstrue. . . . I'm not answering your questions."

Len E. Ellis, who owns the funeral home at 529-31 Rising Sun Ave., said none of the four people who voted from his address lives there. He does not even know two of them, he said.

"I was not aware that all of them were voting out of my address," Ellis said last Thursday, who bought the funeral home from Rotondo in 1990.

Reached last Thursday at her Rhawnhurst house, which lies in the Second Senatorial District, Theresa Rotondo dismissed the fuss over her voter registration.

"I only vote once," she said. "Nobody pays me to vote."


NAME: Francis X. McDade
VOTING ADDRESS: 217 E. Robat St.
POLITICAL POSITION: Democratic committeeman.

Francis X. McDade, 55, and wife Eileen M. McDade, 49, registered there since 1985. Children Francis Jr., 19, Therese, 21, and Laboure, 22, added onto rolls as they came of age. All three children went to Cheltenham Township Schools, K-12, where they drew acclaim for their swimming abilities. "A great family," said one school official.

On their driver's licenses, Eileen and her children call Melrose Park home. On his licence, Francis lists the city address - owned by fellow committeeman Michael Calviello, 68. Three years ago Francis registered his car out of the Montgomery County address. In a 1991 lawsuit in Philadelpia Common Pleas Court, he declared the Melrose Park twin to be his residence.

NAME: Francis M. Felici Jr.
VOTING ADDRESS: 4010 Lawndale Avenue
POLITICAL POSITION: Treasurer, Committee
to Elect Bill Stinson, Democratic candidate
for Second Senatorial State District.

As he has in every election since 1989, Francis M. Felici Jr., 38, a
financial expert and political and civic activist in Juniata, cast his ballot in November from the 33d Ward's 11th Division. His voter's registration form during those years lists his address as 4010 Lawndale Avenue, also the longtime home of his parents, Frank and Agnes.

Felici owns a home on Holyoke Road in the far Northeast - eight miles from 4010 Lawndale and in a different state senatorial district. He became the co- owner of it with his wife in 1988 shortly after their marriage, according to city and real estate records.

Felici's driver's license is issued to his Holyoke Road address; so is his wife's. And his wife, Catherine, is registered to vote there.

Asked about the residency issues in a telephone interview Tuesday, Felici Jr. said: "I think that's personal," and added, "Holyoke is my home."

He also suggested that for personal reasons he had lived at different residences at differing times.

Further residency questions, he said, should be directed to his attorney. He declined to identify the lawyer, saying he preferred that the attorney have the option of initiating a call to The Inquirer. No call was received.

NAMES: Craig Cummons, Robert A. Cummons, Robert J. Bologa.
VOTING ADDRESS: 4314 Potter St.
is a Democratic committeeman.

Robert A. Cummons, 66, owned the house until Nov. 10, but had lived in New Jersey for the past 15 months, where he registered to vote. Meanwhile, he, his son Craig, 40, and Robert J. Bologa, 43, kept it as their voting address.

According to a couple who lived there from August 1992 until the house was sold, neither Cummons nor Bologa lived there during that period.

Robert A. Cummons had his mail forwarded to a second-floor waterfront condo he owns in North Wildwood starting in August 1992, according to U.S. Postal Service records.

On Oct. 1 of this year, he registered to vote in Cape May County. Applied for an absentee ballot, but did not vote there.

Voted instead in Philadelphia by absentee ballot because of health reasons. In an interview this week at the shore, he said he voted by absentee because he was recovering from triple bypass surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital's Ford Road campus.

Before talking with his son on the phone and ending the interview, he said this: "I've only been here five months. I used to live in Juniata Park. I did nothing wrong, and my son did nothing wrong. Why would I vote in Jersey, when I had residence in Philadelphia?"

Joanna De Christopher, who lived in the rowhouse from August 1992 to this October, said that while they were renting Craig "used our address. Craig said he lived there to other people . . . Down where you vote he would tell people it was his house." Efforts to interview the younger Cummons were unsuccessful.

Bologa, a former Cardinal Dougherty High School coach, said in an interview that he hasn't lived at that address since 1990 or 1991. "I wasn't there long," he said. "Six months to a year." Although he moved to a house on Large Street in Oxford Circle, he worked at a rec center near Potter Street, so he continued to vote in the neighborhood - as recently as the May primary.

"I have two residences, for voting," he said. One where he lives; one where he votes.

NAME: Linda Papanikolaou and Lucinda Barbakos
VOTING ADDRESS: 150 E. Louden St.

Linda Papanikolaou has voted in every election since she signed up in January 1988 out of the two-story building, with a corner grocery on the first floor and apartment on the second. Owned by Democratic committeewoman Fani Papanikolaou, 14 voters registered there.

Linda's brother and neighbors say she doesn't live there. Try the 6600 block of Leonard Street, in the Oxford Circle section of Northeast Philadelphia, they say.

Her 1993 Toyota is registered at the Oxford Circle twin, which her driver's license lists as her home. Next-door neighbor says she's lived there at least six years.

Linda Papanikolaou - who declined to comment about her voting records - is co-owner of the Sunset Cafe in Feltonville. For the last four years, she's listed her address with the state Liquor Control Bureau as the Oxford Circle property, which is in a different division that the Feltonville home, but is still in the Second Senatorial District.

On Oct. 19, she applied for an absentee ballot for the November election. Said she'd lived on Louden Street since 1988.

Lucinda Barbakos registered in April 1991 from the Louden Street address and also voted in November. Her driver's license and her car registration list her home address as on Deep Dale Drive East in Levittown, Bucks County.

Grandfather Louis C. Barbakos says Lucinda lived at his home in Bucks County at one time. Said she no longer lives there. May be living in Philadelphia. Said he did not know where.

In an earlier interview, Lucinda's grandfather said she travels back and forth between her home in Philadelphia and the Levittown place.

She could not be reached for comment.



1-2. Five members of the McDade family are registered to vote at the house on
the left in Olney. They have lived for years just over the city line in
Cheltenham Township.

3. Francis M. Felici Jr. votes from here and owns a house with his wife in
the Far Northeast.

4. Three people who voted this year from this row house haven't lived there
since 1992.

5. Of the 14 people registered from this property, at least two have called
elsewhere home. (Inquirer photographs by Sharon J. Wohlmuth and Ed Hille)


1. Voting Here, Living There (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

May not be reprinted without permission.