City controller to probe building collapse

Posted: July 26, 2013

City Controller Alan Butkovitz is planning an audit of city demolition practices, at least the fourth investigation spurred by a deadly Center City building collapse last month.

The Controller's Office sent a letter Wednesday to the commissioner of licenses and inspections, Carlton Williams, saying it intended to audit "the policies and procedures" used by L&I and other agencies to monitor private and publicly funded demolition projects.

"The objective of this audit will be to evaluate the adequacy of the inspection and enforcement procedures pertaining to building demolitions, including the 300 demolitions the city reportedly inspected after the June 5, 2013, Market Street building collapse," Deputy City Controller Gerald V. Micciulla told Williams.

The letter said the Controller's Office intended to interview L&I's management and staff, look through a variety of documents, and observe L&I operations at active demolition sites.

The District Attorney's Office, City Council, and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration are already conducting overlapping investigations, spurred by the collapse at 22d Street and Market. Six people died and 14 were injured when a four-story brick wall collapsed on top of a Salvation Army thrift shop.

District Attorney Seth Williams has convened a grand jury to weigh potential criminal charges. Council has been looking into demolition practices in general, avoiding specific focus on the June 5 accident, and OSHA has been investigating possible violations of federal regulations that govern workplace safety.

Butkovitz said he was interested in studying the expanded demolition requirements announced by Mayor Nutter two days after the building collapsed and seeing how L&I was handling the workload with what the controller contends is an insufficient number of inspectors.

"I'm intrigued at how they could accomplish all that in one week [inspect 300 demolition sites] when they haven't been doing it at all for years," Butkovitz said.

The new city budget for the fiscal year begun July 1 includes money for L&I to hire 15 more inspectors and six construction code trainees, the Controller's Office said.

Rebecca Swanson, a spokeswoman for L&I, said the department "welcomes the opportunity to work with any agency to improve public safety."


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

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