Bass employee on leave after criminal past comes to light

by Pete Mazzaccaro
Posted 2/24/21

An employee of City Councilperson Cindy Bass is on administrative leave after the Local inquired about the employee’s recent criminal past.

The employee, Marcia Willis, pleaded guilty in …

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Bass employee on leave after criminal past comes to light

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An employee of City Councilperson Cindy Bass is on administrative leave after the Local inquired about the employee’s recent criminal past.

The employee, Marcia Willis, pleaded guilty in February of last year to two misdemeanor counts of fraud and theft for taking nearly $15,000 from a 103-year-old woman who sought help managing her finances from State Rep. Stephen Kinsey (D-201) where Willis was on staff.

Willis’ past came to light after an anonymous source tipped the Local off to the hire in January.

When asked by the Local, Philadelphia District Attorney spokesperson Jane Roh did not detail how Willis took the woman’s money but confirmed the theft took place in 2019 while Willis was supposed to be offering the woman financial assistance. Roh declined to identify the victim’s identity for her safety.

Call’s to Kinsey’s office for comment were not returned.

Bass’ office hired Willis to the position of Community Outreach Coordinator in August of 2020. Bass said she was not aware of Willis’ criminal plea. She said she knew Willis from her “community work and engagement.”

The Local asked on first contact with Bass’ office to speak with Willis but was later told Willis had been placed on leave pending an investigation and that the office was not in touch. The Local was not able to get in speak with Willis for comment.

Willis is presently serving four years of probation and is making restitution payments to restore the estate of the woman from whom she stole.

While there is no law preventing Willis from holding a job in City Council, the nature of her crime, taking advantage of an elderly constituent who sought aid from her elected official, raises the question of if employment for another elected official is appropriate.

Bass said she took the matter seriously.

“Of course I’m concerned about all of my constituents and the provision of constituent services,” she said. “In fact, I’m proud of this aspect of my office and I take great pride in knowing and working with individual constituents.”

Still, Bass said she was also not willing to write off employing Willis in the future.

“Although I would have preferred to know of Ms. Willis’ background, the mere fact that she has pleaded guilty, is on parole and is paying restitution would not necessarily disqualify her for holding a job within my office,” Bass said. “I have strongly advocated for ‘banning the box’ that automatically disqualifies citizens who are returning to the community from becoming productive members of the community. It is my strong belief that I have a responsibility to my community to set an example that we should be ready, willing and able to accept our citizens returning to society after they have paid their debt.”

A question regarding the nature of the investigation Bass’ office plans to conduct was not returned before press time.

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