Sheriff to delay retirement for audit

Sheriff John Green was set to retire at the end of this week.
Sheriff John Green was set to retire at the end of this week.
Posted: October 28, 2010

Seeking to calm a dispute with the City Controller's Office, Philadelphia Sheriff John Green yesterday said he was postponing his imminent retirement to ensure cooperation on a forensic audit of the Sheriff's Office.

"Sometimes plans are made to be broken," Green told reporters at a hastily called news conference. "In this case I feel compelled [to stay on] to get this situation completely satisfied so that people have complete confidence in the Sheriff's Office, in its handling of funds."

The announcement came a day after Controller Alan Butkovitz announced plans for a full-scale audit of 11 bank accounts under the sheriff's control, valued at about $53 million.

Butkovitz said the Controller's Office had been trying since early last year to audit just three of the accounts, but had been stymied by the sheriff's failure to provide requested documents.

"We disagree on that point," Green said yesterday, contending that his office had provided the controller's auditors with all the information they had requested.

Deputy City Controller Harvey Rice said yesterday that auditors were still cataloging the contents of a box of documents "dumped on us" last week. But at a critical point in a recent audit, he said, the Sheriff's Office was able to produce only 20 percent of the bank statements, canceled checks and other material that the Controller's Office had sought.

Green, 63, a former police officer, has run the Sheriff's Office since 1988, promising to improve management of the department. With backing from the Democratic Party, he has won re-election every four years since, despite repeated audits and newspaper exposés citing irregularities in its operations and bookkeeping.

Its 230 employees are responsible for courtroom security, the movement of prisoners between city jails and criminal courtrooms, and real-estate auctions to sell properties for nonpayment of mortgages or taxes.

Green had scheduled his retirement for the end of this week, with his duties to be taken over by Barbara Deeley, his longtime deputy, until a new sheriff is elected next year.

But he said he was giving up those retirement plans "until the completion of the forensic audit or whatever other audit" will be conducted by Butkovitz.

Rice said Butkovitz was meeting with Robert Cohen, a forensic accountant based in Huntingdon Valley, to decide on the scope of the audit and to help draft a request for proposals from firms interested in the contract.

Green said he had been looking forward to spending more time with his wife and grandchildren, but he acknowledged a financial benefit from delaying his retirement: He'll continue receiving his city salary, nearly $10,000 a month, and keep adding to the deferred-retirement payment he'll receive when he finally retires.

Green entered the deferred-retirement program, known as DROP, in May 2007, requiring him to leave the city payroll by May 2011. If he had retired at the end of this week, his DROP payment would be $377,689, but if he waits until May, it will be $444,271, an extra $66,582.

His monthly pension benefit in retirement will be $8,464.

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