News Article - January 14, 2009

By Jeff Shields

  Philadelphia's long-serving airport director, Charles Isdell Jr., took an early retirement today following a Fox 29 television investigation that questioned whether he lived in the city. Isdell, 59, a 37-year city employee and director of aviation Philadelphia International Airport since 2000, notified Mayor Nutter of his decision this afternoon after being confronted by Fox 29 reporter who had footage showing him coming and going to work from his wife's home in Cherry Hill, according to the mayor's office.

   Municipal employees are required to live in the city. Isdell was scheduled to retire in July but will now leave Jan. 30 and help with the transition in his remaining time, Nutter said. The mayor and Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler will now begin the search for a replacement. "He's a very proud public servant," Nutter said in an interview, adding that Isdell told him he was a city resident but had family issues recently. "It was very very clear that he felt terrible about what happened here."

   In a statement that was part of a press release from the mayor's office tonight, Isdell said: "It has been an honor and a pleasure to have served the people of this city and I want to thank all in the Nutter Administration for their courtesy and support over the past year." Isdell did not respond to requests for an interview.

   What happened, Nutter said, was that Isdell, a city native and longtime resident who owns a house in the city, got married 18 months ago to a woman living in Cherry Hill. While they both maintained their residences, he said, Isdell's wife had been sick recently, and, according to Isdell, he had been spending more time there. Nutter's spokesman, Doug Oliver, said Fox 29 reporter Jeff Cole had footage of Isdell for 15 days in December, and showed Isdell commuting from New Jersey.

   Nutter, who ran on a platform of ethical reform, said Isdell said he still lived in Philadelphia. Still, Nutter said the city's Inspector General was prepared to launch an investigation into the allegations. Isdell did not want to "create any controversy with regard to our administration," Nutter said. "Mr. Isdell...decided to bring forward his retirement date in order to avoid any distractions or unwanted attention for his family," according to the mayor's press release.

   Nutter said he did not ask for Isdell's resignation or early departure. He said Isdell's departure would "bring the matter to a conclusion and there's no need to take further action." Isdell is enrolled in the city's Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP, and had chosen a mandatory retirement date of July 17. He is one of the city's highest paid employees, making $163,894 a year, and will receive a pension of about $115,000 annually, according to the Board of Pensions and Retirement, along with a DROP payment upon leaving that should be in excess of $400,000. "I have appreciated all his time and commitment," Nutter said. "I believe on behalf of the citizens of this city, he certainly took the appropriate action."

   Nutter credited Isdell for improving customer service, achieving the highest ranking among large airports in North America in overall customer satisfaction in J.D. Power and Associates' 2008 North America Airport Satisfaction Study. Isdell had served as aviation director for two terms of the Street administration. He had the title of acting aviation director when Nutter took office. Nutter named Isdell aviation director no longer acting - in September.

Source - Philadelphia Inquirer