Former Philadelphia Controller's Office staffer takes on Butkovitz

Rafael Kaplan has established an anti-Butkovitz website.
Rafael Kaplan has established an anti-Butkovitz website.
Posted: January 15, 2013

Rafael "Ralph" Kaplan landed a job in 2011 as an auditor for City Controller Alan Butkovitz. He called the $39,600-a-year position a "dream job."

Kaplan, 34, a licensed CPA with a master's degree in business administration, was gone six months later, dismissed at the end of his probation, ostensibly for using a four-letter word in criticizing an office seminar.

Now he's a wild card in the 2013 controller's election, with a website, therealalanbutkovitz.com, that purports to present "The Real Alan Butkovitz."

It includes detailed media accounts of Kaplan's dismissal, and a bizarre internal investigation of a homophobic slur on a men's-room stall, aimed at two of Butkovitz's close advisers.

The perpetrator is still at large, despite fingerprints and writing samples collected from a dozen employees, who were ordered to write the same four-word slur multiple times. Kaplan was not among the suspects.

He said he got nothing but positive reports on his work performance until he criticized a white-collar crime seminar offered to some of the controller's employees. It was taught by Sammy Antar, former chief financial officer of the Crazy Eddie appliance chain, famous for a 1980s securities fraud.

Asked to evaluate the seminar in an anonymous questionnaire, Kaplan wrote, in part: "Why would the City . . . hire a criminal PIECE OF s- to teach us a course?"

Weeks later, Kaplan was asked whether he was responsible for the comment. He acknowledged he was and apologized for the language - and lost his job about six weeks later.

"Your reaction [in the survey] suggests that when you dislike something or someone you may handle the situation in a less than professional manner," Deputy City Controller Gerald Micciulla wrote in the termination letter.

Butkovitz said he had never met Kaplan but conferred with Micciulla after Kaplan sent the controller a letter appealing his dismissal. Butkovitz upheld the decision, he said, because Micciulla said he had a general concern about Kaplan's temper.

"That's the first time I've heard that," Kaplan said last week, saying such concern did not appear on his progress report or termination notice.

Kaplan launched his website in mid-December with a mass e-mail to reporters. "It's entirely my baby," unrelated to any candidate, he said. "My position is, anybody but Butkovitz."

On Dec. 21, Kaplan and several former coworkers, still in the Controller's Office, were visited by Philadelphia police detectives, who inquired about Kaplan's mental health and capacity for violence.

Butkovitz confirmed he had contacted police. He said an employee overheard a conversation suggesting Kaplan had asked someone in the office about acquiring a gun.

Kaplan said he never made such an inquiry and thought Butkovitz was trying to intimidate him.

"I am a married man, a father of a 6-month-old baby girl. . . . I would never hurt anybody," Kaplan said. He does not own a gun, has never even fired one, he said.

Police concluded the controller's report was "unfounded."

Police spokeswoman Christine O'Brien said that conclusion typically meant the police could find "no evidence to show that a crime took place." If they believed a former employee had actually been talking about getting a gun, she said, "they would have pursued it and it would still be under investigation."


Contact Bob Warner at 215-854-5885 or warnerb@phillynews.com.

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