Mayor W. Wilson Goode said today he will not resign and does not expect to be indicted for his handling of a confrontation last May with the radical group MOVE that left 11 persons dead and a neighborhood in ashes.
But Goode, at his first news conference since a mayoral commission last week accused him of "gross negligence" in the incident, refused to respond specifically to criticism directed against him in a scathing, 70-page report by the panel.
Asked if he considered himself "grossly negligent," the mayor avoided the question, saying he had acknowledged that the plan he approved for removing MOVE members from a fortified row house "did not work. I've said the plan failed. Whether it was poor judgment or poor planning, the plan did not work.
"I am not going to get into a discussion of terminology," he added.
The commission said Goode "abdicated his responsibilites as a leader" during the MOVE siege, that he and top aides displayed a "reckless disregard for life and property" in planning for it, that they made an "unconscionable" decision to drop a bomb on the MOVE row house and that the deaths of five children appeared to be "unjustified homicide" and should be investigated by a grand jury.
The city district attorney last week appointed a team of lawyers to decide whether to impanel a grand jury to bring charges against Goode and other Philadelphia offi- cials.
"I do not feel I will be indicted," the mayor told contentious reporters today. "I do not feel I should be indicted."
The news conference and a Sunday night speech, both broadcast live over local television stations, were designed as the first steps in a drive to put the MOVE controversy behind Goode and revive his hopes for reelection next year.
Goode, the city's first black mayor, apologized repeatedly for his role in the MOVE incident in his "heart-to-heart" talk with citizens Sunday but said little in either appearance that he had not said before.
Although three public opinion polls commissioned by local television stations last week found that one-fifth to one-fourth of city residents thought Goode should resign, he said today he did not think that one major mistake necessitated such action.
"I don't feel an alternative is resignation, and I will not resign," he told the news conference, packed with reporters and scores of city officials.
He also brushed off questions about whether he will seek a second term. "I prefer to let the people of the city respond to that," Goode said. "I believe people are fair and people will in the end offer a fair judgment . . . . I'm perfectly willing to put myself in their hands."
"Of course, I would not ever again permit anyone, in any neigh orhood, to drop any kind of explosive device on a house," Goode said. "I would not ever again let anyone permit a fire to burn."
The commission said then-Police Commissioner Gregore J. Sambor and Fire Commissioner William Richmond decided to use fire, ignited by the bomb, as "a tactical weapon."
Sambor has since resigned, and MOVE commission Chairman William Brown has called on Goode to fire Richmond.
Goode said he will not fire Richmond because he considered the MOVE confrontation "a police operation."