The midterm elections are fast approaching Nov. 6, and Philadelphia City Commission staffers are working hard to ensure a smooth day of voting at hundreds of polling places.
In Nicetown, warehouse workers are preparing voting machines for use. At City Hall, employees are constantly checking and rechecking their systems.
Yet amid all the hubbub, one critical player is missing. That’s Anthony Clark, one of the three top election officials in Philadelphia.
Clark has remained a controversial character in City Hall for the past decade.
In 2007, Anthony Clark ran for City Commissioner and won. He was active during his first term as one of three people charged with overseeing elections: He designed and published the Philadelphia Public Guide on Election Information and Voter Education, partnered with other officials to modify Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, and proposed to expand the City Commissioner’s website for greater voter accessibility.
But in more recent years, Clark has been increasingly absent, both in the office and at the polls. So much so, in fact, that some have asked whether he’s really doing work to justify his $138,000 salary.
Take his voting record, for instance. According to the now-deceased alt-weekly City Paper, Clark failed to cast a ballot at least five elections, including the 2012 presidential election, over the course of three years.
Yep, you read that right – the head of the board that runs Philly elections didn’t vote in them himself.
When questioned by reporters, he failed to explain why, saying only that under the U.S. Constitution he was not required to vote and that his decision was a "personal choice that has nothing to do with the running of the office."
Fast forward to 2018. The NBC10 Investigators tried for two months to schedule an interview with him without success. They were told repeatedly by city staffers that Clark was on vacation, that they didn’t know where he was or what he was doing, and finally that "elected officials like him 'don’t do 9-to-5 like the rest of us do.'"
This isn’t the first time Clark's schedule has been placed under the media microscope. In 2015, the Daily News tried to track him down for two weeks, visiting his office each day at different times in the morning and afternoon. He wasn't available, staffers said, and they couldn’t guarantee that he’d be in later either.
The Daily News story said it's become a bit of an inside joke around City Hall. Some employees, according to the story, joked that meeting Clark in the building is about as common as sighting the Loch Ness Monster, while another called him the "$139,000 Invisible Man" of the city commissioners.
But political watchdog organizations didn't find his absence amusing. A coalition consisting of Philadelphia 3.0, 5th Square, Philly Set Go, and Committee of Seventy filed right-to-know requests in 2015 in an attempt to find out what, exactly, Clark does with his time. In response, the city said that Clark keeps no public calendar, agenda, or attendance record. He doesn’t even have a computer on his office desk.
In an interview with NBC10, Committee of Seventy CEO David Thornburgh said, "He's just AWOL, plain and simple."
When confronted by the NBC10 Investigators after the October monthly meeting, Clark repeatedly said a reporter would have to schedule a meeting through his office. But he did eventually say, "I ran. I won. The people voted for me. OK?! They didn’t vote for you."
When Clark retires at the end of his current term, which ends Jan. 2020, Philly.com reported he will receive a $500,000 payout through the controversial Deferred Retirement Option Program. That’s on top of his $10K-per-month pension, the news site said.