Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams Belatedly Reports $160K in Gifts

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has belatedly reported receiving $160,000 in gifts from friends, including $45,000 worth of roof repairs and other home improvements. 

The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported Tuesday the Democrat omitted the gifts on annual statements of financial interest he filed from 2010 to 2015. 

Williams issued a statement through his 2017 re-election campaign citing "the need for greater transparency." 

"I believe that it is very important to provide the citizens of Philadelphia with a greater foundation of trust in their elected officials," the statement read, adding that the filings included gifts from "close friends and family members, along with other forms of support from public and professional organizations to attend professional conferences and events." 

In the statement, Williams said the disclosure was meant to "meet or exceed" the state requirements. 

Williams declined an interview request from The Associated Press to discuss the matter through a campaign spokesman on Tuesday. His attorney, Samuel Stretton, called the omissions a "terrible mistake."

Stretton is trying to negotiate penalties with the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission and the Philadelphia Board of Ethics. He said Williams "wasn't paying attention" to reporting responsibilities and wrongly thought some gifts from close friends didn't need to be reported. 

Last fall, The Inquirer reported the FBI and IRS were examining Williams' personal and political finances. Stretton said the amended report filing would help him in such an inquiry, though Stretton is not representing Williams in his federal matters. 

The gifts also include nearly $21,000 in free airfare for vacations, $10,000 in travel expenses for a fellowship program in Australia and South Africa and sideline passes for Philadelphia Eagles games from 2011 to 2015. 

Williams, elected Philadelphia's first black district attorney in 2009, joined the office in 1992 and is seeking a third term next year. He was appointed inspector general in 2005 and was responsible for overseeing investigations into corruption, fraud, waste, abuse and employee misconduct among city employees and contractors.

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