The FBI raided the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office late last week in search of records that would serve as evidence for a multi-year investigation, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The investigation, which the Inquirer said focused on the office’s real estate functions, dates back to “previous administrations,” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Joseph Blake told the Inquirer. AxisPhilly suggests that the investigation could also focus on the current administration of Sheriff Jewell Williams.
The Sheriff’s Office began implementing a new real estate software system this May, the Sheriff’s Chief Technology Officer Tom Dodd told Technical.ly Philly this spring. The system would upgrade the “antiquated” 15-year-old system currently in place, he said, adding that it would allow the Sheriff’s Office to collect data on the office’s operations, like how many properties had been sold at sheriff’s sales per month and how many properties were “stayed,” or no longer required to be sold at auction.
The new system would also allow for automated updates to the Sheriff’s Office website that lists properties for Sheriff’s sale, Dodd said. That information is currently inputted manually. The system was slated to be in place by this fall, Dodd had said.
Williams campaigned on a promise of “transparency and open records.” So will the Sheriff’s office share the data that its new system will be able to collect?
As of this spring, the office had not yet come up with a formal open data policy, Dodd said, but it does intend on sharing data about the sale prices of sheriff’s sale properties and the number of properties sold.
Dodd, a former associate director of IT at Newtown Square health IT firm Inventiv Health (formerly PharmaNet), is the Sheriff’s Office’s first Chief Technology Officer. Williams created the position when he came into office, spokesman Blake said, because he saw “a need to address technology.”
If Dodd was looking for a time for the open data movement to have PR value, then following an FBI raid might be good time — whether that raid’s interest predates his tenure or not. The Sheriff’s Office has in the past denied requests for public records regarding sheriff’s sales, AxisPhilly reported. If his team continues to delay on transparency efforts, the long criticized Sheriff’s department’s tinge of impropriety might latch onto the Williams camp.
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