City, Council at odds over fatal building collapse

Posted: July 19, 2013

A CITY COUNCIL investigatory committee established to look into the deadly Center City building collapse wants answers, but the Nutter administration isn't making it easy.

Councilman Jim Kenney asked several departments to appear at today's hearing, the third of five investigating the collapse of a four-story building onto a neighboring thrift store on 22nd Street near Market that left six people dead and 13 injured in June.

But Kenney said yesterday that he later learned the administration had refused to allow representatives from the Fire Department and the Department of Licenses and Inspections - which is tasked with issuing construction permits and inspecting construction sites - to speak at today's hearing.

"One of the critical departments I wanted to see was the Fire Department, but now they can't show up," he said.

Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said the administration will provide testimony and a written response to Council's questions. He did not say why the administration was not allowing representatives from those departments to speak. Representatives from the Revenue, Streets and Water Departments, Philadelphia Gas Works, Drexel University and a demolition industry expert are expected to attend the 10 a.m. hearing.

Council President Darrell Clarke noted that the administration had been cooperative, but said, "Council always has a number of options."

"One is to have a direct conversation with the mayor or his chief of staff," Clarke said, adding, "and if need be, Council will always have subpoena power, which this particular investigative committee has been given."

The administration has come under fire for clamping down on documents some considered public after the fatal building collapse. Nutter reportedly has pointed to an ongoing criminal investigation as the reason why he's withholding some documents.

Kenney recently filed a right-to-know request for a series of documents related to the collapse, the people involved, permits, licenses and more for the last three years. He's currently waiting for a response from the city.

Some wondered where the mayor was. Nutter is on vacation.

"Isn't it [Nutter's] job to herd all of this mess?" Kenney asked.

When asked where the mayor is vacationing, McDonald said, "He is with his family," adding, "I'm not authorized to say any more. The Mayor is reachable at all times and in contact with his senior staff as needed."

On Twitter: @Jan_Ransom


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