MOVE panel scores Philadelphia officials. Calls bombing reckless; seeks grand jury probe
Mayor W. Wilson Goode of Philadelphia faces another onslaught of criticism and examination as a special commission on the May 13 MOVE siege calls for a grand jury investigation into the confrontation. The special commission appointed by the mayor concluded that Mayor Goode was ``grossly negligent'' because he didn't stop the police action despite the fact that he knew children were involved. A fire resulting from a bomb dropped by police on the radical MOVE headquarters killed five children, six adults MOVE members, and destroyed 61 homes in the West Philadelphia neighborhood.
``The plan to bomb the MOVE house was reckless, ill-conceived, and hastily approved. . . . Dropping the bomb on an occupied row house was unconscionable and should have been rejected out of hand by the mayor, the managing director, the police commissioner, and the fire commissioner,'' the report said.
Mayor Goode, who will not comment on the draft report, will be up for reelection in 1987, and he continues to say he will run. Many other names -- both Republican and Democrat -- have been dropped as potential opponents, but no one has officially declared.
Goode had been seen in a relatively positive light before the MOVE crisis. Now even supporters admit that the mayor's ability to run the city has been greatly hampered as a result of the MOVE incident. In addition to the city's initial shock of seeing lives lost and a neighborhood razed, the commission hearings produced discrepancies, particularly regarding the mayor's role.
Goode said during the panel hearings that although he accepted responsibility for the disaster, he was misguided and misinformed by his key officials. But those same advisers said they had kept Goode informed during the confrontation, and he had approved major decisions.
The draft report, published by the Philadelphia Inquirer over the weekend, said that racism figured in the decisions that led to the bombing. It suggested that the city would have acted differently if the MOVE house had been in a white neighborhood. The final report is due out later this month.
The report also recommends disciplinary action for six police officers, and it urges an investigation of possible perjury in the hearings.
The substance of the report is no surprise, says Jack Nagel of the University of Pennsylvania's political science department. But the fact that it the commision used such harsh language indicates ``how terribly weakened'' the mayor is politically, he says.
The question now is how the report will effect next year's election, and whether the Goode administration quickly and earnestly addresses the management reforms, including improving trouble-shooting.