and JORDANA HORN Five witnesses, including Mayor Ed Rendell's chief of staff, testified for the University Wednesday on the last day of the Mayor's Scholarship trial in the final act of the 13-month case. It is not clear when Common Pleas Court Judge Nelson Diaz will hand down a decision on the case, but both sides have said that they will appeal if they lose. The University took just half a day to present its defense. By contrast, the Public Interest Law Center, which is representing the plaintiffs, devoted two full days replete with the testimony of more than 30 witnesses in making its case. Rendell's Chief of Staff David Cohen reaffirmed the city's support of the University's position in the case, and praised the University for agreeing recently to voluntarily increase its scholarship commitment. Cohen also contradicted the earlier testimony of former Mayor Wilson Goode, who said Tuesday that he believed throughout his tenure as mayor, that the University had not lived up to its scholarship obligation. The Common Pleas Court trial was supposed to settle a lawsuit filed in October 1991 against the University over the number of scholarships the University is required to distribute annually to Philadelphia students. The lawsuit, filed by labor unions, student groups and several individuals, claims that a 1977 city ordinance requires the University to award 125 scholarships to Philadelphia high school graduates in each University class, for a total of 500 at a time. The University, however, maintains that it is required by the disputed ordinance to provide a total of 125 scholarships at a time in return for rent-free city land. Cohen testified that Goode told him in late 1991 that the plaintiffs' claims were "essentially non-meritorious," but that city lawyers recommended that the city intervene on the side of the plaintiffs. Cohen's statements appeared to contradict Goode's testimony from the day before, during which the former mayor said he supported the plaintiffs' goals in the suit. "I felt confident that [PILCOP] would pursue . . . the same kind of issues I would have pursued, had I been involved," Goode had said. Goode decided to delay the city's intervention, but urged incoming-Mayor Rendell to side with the plaintiffs. Rendell, however, chose to disregard Goode's recommendation and align the city with the University in the lawsuit. Former University President Martin Meyerson began the day's testimony by denying that the University ever agreed to the alleged increase. Arthur Makadon, the University's outside lawyer in the case, asked Meyerson whether the University intended to quadruple its scholarship commitment in 1977, as plaintiffs in the case maintain. "Did not," he replied tersely. Other witnesses for the University included a former city deputy mayor, a former city representative and Robert Zemsky, the University's planning director, who was the director of planning analysis for the University in 1977. Diaz asked each witness except Cohen if they had been personally involved in negotiations with City Council in 1977, when Council drafted the disputed ordinance. The witnesses said they had not been directly involved.Comments powered by Disqus
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