Philadelphians of every hue and persuasion have found something to be angry about in the buyout deal for former Superintendent of Schools Arlene Ackerman.
For some, it's the roughly $1 million cost of the buyout.
For others, it's the way her bosses and the pols dealt with her on her way out the door. Or the way she dealt with them.
For still others, it's the idea of a whopping payday for a lightning rod of a superintendent, despite controversies in her three-year tenure ranging from the reliability of test scores to her handling of violence in the schools.
For the non-partisan, non-profit watchdog group, the Committee of Seventy, the issue has been the unusual and probably unprecedented dependence on anonymous private donors to help cover the cost of Dr. Ackerman's parachute.
We certainly were not alone.
In fact, the secrecy surrounding this particular farewell deal might have generated almost as much outrage as the million-dollar buyout itself. As one corporate leader said to me, "This is just the kind of thing that gives Philadelphia a corrupt image." He had just turned down a request to contribute 50,000 smackaroos.
Ordinary Philadelphians were no less bothered.
"The veil should be ripped off the private contributors," one citizen wrote in an e-mail to me. "Let them give $400,000 to fund much-needed school programs instead of buying Queen Arlene a ticket out of town."
In case you missed the lack-of-transparency angle in the Ackerman passion play, this is the story:
Mayor Michael Nutter -- a former Ackerman supporter who turned hard against her after she publicly embarrassed him -- privately took the position that no more than a half-million public dollars should be used to fund the buyout of the remainder of her contract. Then Nutter, who is running for a second term, and others started making calls to build the secret kitty.
While the mayor was working to fund the cost of getting Ackerman out of town, he was praising her. "On behalf of the City of Philadelphia," he said, "I thank Dr. Ackerman for her service, her deep commitment to the city's students and her educational expertise."
Nutter defended the private donations, saying it was the donors who demanded secrecy -- although that is one more thing Philadelphians can't be sure of.
"If a person wishes to make a donation to a legitimate legal entity and asks for anonymity," the mayor said, "then I think the preference of that particular donor has to be respected."
The $400,000 or so in private donations is being channeled through a non-profit organization established by the School District called Philadelphia's Children First. Its board of directors included Dr. Ackerman; lawyer Robert Archie Jr., chairman of the School Reform Commission, the state/city agency that oversees the schools, and Dr. Leroy Nunnery, an Ackerman deputy who is now acting superintendent and who has declared his interest in permanently winning Ackerman's job.
Those who donated to the Ackerman buyout through Philadelphia's Children First get a tax deduction and, at least for now, complete cover.
The tax deduction could be subject to dispute. Lawyer Mark Schwartz has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate Philadelphia's Children First. He contends that the use of the non-profit to channel the funds is a violation of its mission.
I can imagine why a well-heeled and well-intentioned Philadelphian might pony up big bucks for the buyout fund. For starters, the closing days of the Ackerman era were clearly divisive. Things were getting ugly and the town was splitting in part along racial lines.
But because of the secrecy, the concern is that people here will never know exactly why someone was motivated to contribute to the Ackerman fund.
It is deeply embedded in the culture of Philadelphia that favors are expected and favors are rewarded.
When politicians and their pals are asking for favors, and City Hall and the School District are spending close to $6 billion a year, there's more than enough opportunity for contracts and other rewards.
Mayor Nutter and the stewards of the School District opted to solve their Ackerman problem with secret donations.
Who wouldn't be suspicious?
Zachary Stalberg is the president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, a government watchdog group in Philadelphia.
All statements and opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors, and not of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or NBC News.