Keystone Politics - a Democratic leaning news aggregator, did the honors. Of course, I quickly followed KP's lead. I suggested that Tony - a wrestling referee - was probably just showing this woman some new moves. Hee. Hee. KP described her as a "known prostitute." Chris Casey went a little further, claiming Phillips' companion "has a criminal record as a prostitute." Someone on Casey's site then huffed that women are "creeped out" by Phillips. You can see a picture of him above. He doesn't look that creepy to me, but he sure looks black. The Morning Call finally decided to report this escapade on July 13, two days after it hit the local blogosphere.
Well, as all know, no charges were ever filed against Tony or his female companion. None were needed. He had already been publicly crucified, and I drove in a few of the nails myself.
One thing always bothered me about this story. Do you honestly think, for even a second, that Keystone Politics sends staffers to check local police department blotters? If they do, they've missed some juicy stories involving political figures over the past year. I know a few myself, but don't like writing about DUIs, even when they involve local hotshots. So how did KP get this little ditty? Obviously, somebody leaked it. Someone wanted to smear Phillips.
Worked like a charm, too.
Over the weekend, I ran into Tony Phillips at the Allentown Speak Out Forum. It's the second time I've met him. Contrary to what I expected, he's actually very well-spoken and informed about his local community. He may not be on a first name basis with Lee Butz, but seems to know a lot of Allentown's less affluent citizens pretty well. They don't seem "creeped out" by him at all. Although it's yesterday's news, I asked if he would mind telling me his side of the story, and he did.
Phillips is a twenty-two year veteran of the Allentown police department and a life-long Allentown resident. He's a Moravian grad, and is teaching in Philly. He's also a victim of racial discrimination, and I'm playing no race card. This is documented extensively in a federal district court opinion. Phillips was forced to work for over ten years with an officer who wore a swastika pin on his uniform and made racist remarks. When he finally complained, he was subjected to retaliatory harassment. This included false accusations about smoking marijuana on duty, later admitted to have been fabricated. He'd come on duty to find a severed and blackened doll's head attached to his cruiser's steering wheel. Just a practical joke, they said. Despite this hostile work environment, Phillips was still cited for heroism.
Still creeped out?
Obviously, Tony was a thorn in the side of officers who think swastika pins are cute. And although he's a Democrat, he bluntly told me he's no "team player" for Mayor Ed Pawlowski, either. He's been called a "chowderhead" and "halfwit" for opposing Allentown's bond refinancing scheme. He has criticized the $73,000 salary paid to the city's information technology director. He opposed a 54% payhike for Allentown's next mayor. He stood up for suffering Hamilton Street merchants - most of them minorities - when they were thrown under the bus by LANTA. He dared complain when the city tried to get a special booze license for Johnny Mañana's - an upscale nonlocal eatery that will send all of its profits out of the city - while thumbing its nose at less trendy establishments. Worst of all, he was highly critical of Democratic operative Peter Wernsdorfer as Allentown Director of Public Works. Wernsdorfer is no engineer or city resident, but is politically well connected. Phillips dared speak against our political spoils system.
So when Tony was caught in a playground this summer, someone took advantage of the situation. Newspapers, for all their flaws, can usually tell when someone is trying to spin them. But we bloggers are more naive. In some cases, we ourselves are active participants in the spin cycle.
Here's what Tony, a married father of four, tells me. The woman in question is a friend, a person he's known since 1972, and she was having some personal problems. He actually attended classes with her. She's a local, too. Contrary to what we told you, Phillips claims this woman has no criminal record as a prostitute. I checked myself. Since 2000, this woman has had four parking tickets and six minor prosecutions involving her children. No prostitution charges. After the incident in question, police visited this woman at her home no less than three times in an attempt to have her implicate Phillips.
Tony Phillips was definitely screwed. It just wasn't by that woman. Who is the Phillips screwdriver? Could be Allentown cops who like swastika pins. Could be city administrators who hate being questioned. Could even be goofy bloggers like me.