Controller threatens to withhold L&I paychecks

Posted: September 22, 2013

PHILADELPHIA City Controller Alan Butkovitz threatened Friday to hold up paychecks in the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections if it doesn't speed up cooperation with his probe into how the city regulates demolition projects.

Mayor Nutter's chief of staff, Everett Gillison, said the administration had been cooperating and accused Butkovitz of abusing his authority.

"If he really wants to know how L&I works, our people are there to help him with that," Gillison said. "I think this is a case where Mr. Butkovitz is playing politics."

The friction between Butkovitz and the Nutter administration went public Friday as the controller provided The Inquirer with a copy of a letter to L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams.

The letter cited a rarely noticed provision of the City Charter and ordered Williams to appear at the Controller's Office on Tuesday with a list of requested documents, including the procedures L&I followed to determine whether to approve demolition applications, the possible sanctions for violation of L&I demolition regulations, and a list of all demolition permits issued since 2009.

"Your failure to appear . . . and produce the documents may . . . require this office to take additional measures, including the holding of paychecks of all [L&I] employees responsible for the audit," Butkovitz warned.

Butkovitz announced his audit plans in July, the month after a building collapse at 22d and Market Streets killed six people in an adjoining Salvation Army store.

"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 Market Street building collapse," Deputy Controller Gerald V. Micciulla said in a July 24 letter to Williams.

So far, said Deputy Controller Harvey Rice, L&I has provided copies of the relevant city codes but no specific information on how the department enforces them.

In a telephone interview Friday night, Butkovitz said the administration normally cooperates with his auditors but had been stonewalling on material related to the building collapse.

"The last time I remember having this sort of difficulty was during the audit of the Sheriff's Office in 2010," Butkovitz said.

Gillison said the controller had asked for some information, like five years' worth of demolition permits, that isn't kept in a database and that would have to be produced from scratch. Other material has to be reviewed by the city Law Department before it can be provided, he said.


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

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