"The thing that's sad is [the collapse] could have been stopped across the desk, at that permit issuance if Revenue had communicated with L&I," said Councilman Jim Kenney.
Plato Marinakos, the permit expediter involved in the fatal collapse of a four-story building onto an adjacent thrift store last month, was granted demolition permits in February even though he owes the city thousands of dollars in taxes dating to 2002. He and the contractor, Griffin Campbell, had both filed for bankruptcy.
Frank Breslin, deputy commissioner for the Revenue Department, said the city is working to establish a data warehouse that will allow departments to easily access and share information.
"How many times can you get a payment agreement?" Kenney asked. "I'm in compliance, I get a permit. I'm out of compliance, I get into a payment agreement. I'm in compliance, I don't pay my taxes and I'm out of compliance. How many times can that dance go on?"
Breslin said that generally, a person gets three chances. The first time the city offers a "generous" payment plan. But, if a person defaults on it, he or she is offered a more stringent payment plan.
"The third time, we take a hard-line look at a very large down payment, 50 percent or no payment agreement at all," Breslin said. "We can say: 'Not only are you not eligible for a payment agreement, but if you don't come into compliance, we're going to close your business.' "
The administration was criticized for not allowing representatives from L&I and the Fire Department to attend yesterday's hearing. The Fire Department submitted written testimony.
Meanwhile, the 3-1-1 Contact Center has made a series of changes to the way it handles service requests related to dangerous conditions. The center has updated its information concerning dangerous situations to better assist agents, established a system to ensure requests are processed in a timely fashion, the L&I commissioner receives alerts related to any dangerous conditions and L&I has assigned a department liaison responsible for monitoring and updating information in the 3-1-1 database.
Council intends to issue a report, recommend best practices and introduce legislation to improve the system. Council's next Special Investigatory Committee meeting will be Aug. 1.
On Twitter: @Jan_Ransom