While Bill Green committed no malfeasance, Gov. Wolf still had the right to strip him of chairmanship of the SRC, a Commonwealth Court judge said.
by David Compa
With Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission on its way out the door, a state court tied up a bit of unfinished business Monday, handing Bill Green a defeat in his quest to regain chairmanship of the panel. Green, who was named to the SRC and appointed chairman by Gov. Tom Corbett in 2014, was essentially demoted by Gov. Wolf in 2015. He was replaced by Marge Neff and then, when she left the panel, by Joyce Wilkerson, the current chair. The former City Councilman said he believed Wolf’s move was politically motivated — the decision came just after Green voted to approve five new charter schools, a move the governor opposed. Green said then that he had been told that the governor could not work with him as chair. Green remains a member of the SRC, but had argued in a suit filed in Commonwealth Court that Wolf’s move was illegal. In his ruling, Judge Joseph M. Cosgrove disagreed, saying that removing Green “was well within Gov. Wolf’s constitutional authority.” Green’s lawyers had argued the governor could only remove him as chair for cause. He was represented by lawyers from the Fairness Center, a nonprofit firm created to do battle with public-sector unions. Cosgrove agreed, however, that Green had been removed without cause and that Green “has not engaged in any such malfeasance or misfeasance.” Because Green remains an SRC member, he was not removed from office, despite being stripped of his chairman’s gavel, the court found. Green, in a statement, said he would appeal the ruling, given the SRC’s imminent demise. “The SRC, while not always agreeing, has worked effectively as a team and accomplished a great deal,” Green said. “It is now settled that Marge Neff and Joyce Wilkerson were and are Chair. I will continue to work with Chair Wilkerson to make sure the transition to local control is as smooth as possible.” The SRC voted last month to dissolve itself and awaits certification of the dissolution from Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera. Once Rivera signs off on the move, as is widely expected, the SRC would be on track to cease to exist on June 30. It would be replaced by a local board of education named by Mayor Kenney.