One might not expect a link between fried chicken and pension assets, but both have a connection with a federal wiretapping probe into political corruption in Philadelphia. Along with New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson.
Mr. Thompson, who also oversees the $88 billion New York City Retirement Systems, surfaced in the probe when he met with Detroit fast-food king La-Van Hawkins, who was seeking cash to gain control of nearly 100 Church's Chicken restaurants in Detroit and Chicago at a cost of about $21 million.
Mr. Hawkins has been charged in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia with attempting to bribe former Philadelphia Treasurer Corey Kemp, who is on trial separately in federal court in Philadelphia for allegedly giving city business to firms that contributed to his campaign and that gave him gifts.
Three years ago, Mr. Hawkins helped raise money for the Rev. Al Sharpton's failed 2004 presidential campaign. In exchange, Rev. Sharpton, a friend of Mr. Thompson, arranged for Mr. Hawkins to meet with Mr. Thompson so he could try to convince the comptroller to help finance his restaurant empire with New York City pension assets, according to published news reports.
Jeff Simmons, a New York City spokesman, said Mr. Thompson did meet with Mr. Hawkins and his business partner, Ronald White, on May 8, 2003, but the three never talked about fried chicken. He said Mr. Hawkins asked about hedge fund investing, and "it was made clear the city does not invest in hedge funds." The meeting with Mr. Hawkins did not represent any wrong doing, and neither Mr. Thompson nor Rev. Sharpton broke any laws in the matter, Mr. Simmons said.