City Council plans to investigate fatal building collapse

Investigators, engineers and lawyers are allowed to search through the rubble at the site of the building collapse at 22nd and Market Streets Sunday, June 9, 2013, gathering evidence for a mounting number of lawsuits. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer

Updated to include details from Council's 1 p.m. press conference

Nearly a week after a Center City building collapsed onto an adjoining thrift store killing six and injuring 14 people City Council president Darrell Clarke named a Special Investigative Committee today to figure out what went wrong.

The Committee which includes Council members Jannie Blackwell, Bobby Henon, Curtis Jones Jr., Jim Kenney and Maria Quinones-Sanchez will be tasked with examining the city's procedures and regulations pertaining to licenses, permits, construction, demolition, safety and worker certification. Clarke said state lawmakers may also be added to the Committee. He also noted "this is not a criminal investigation."

Mayor Nutter said that before receiving a news release Sunday, he was not aware Council was planning to look into the collapse of a four-story building that was being demolished on 22nd Street near Market when it flattened a neighboring thrift store Tuesday.

"I'm sure Council will be sensitive in their work and understanding that in some of these instances you have law enforcement activity and investigations and that all of us have to be mindful in making sure that whatever all of us are doing that we don't interfere with the legal process that is going on especially by the law enforcement entities," Nutter said when asked if he thought Council's investigation could interfere with other investigations.

Council's investigatory committee will make recommendations and hopes to subsequently introduce legislation, but the legislative body has no control over the Department of Licenses and Inspection (L&I) --the entity tasked with issuing permits and inspecting construction sites.

A Council Committee is set to approve an operating budget Wednesday and Clarke said Council will consider more funding for L&I inspectors on top of Nutter's request to increase the number of inspectors by six for a total of 46.

"We're not sure the budget has been addressed appropriately to reflect the need of Licenses and Inspection," Clarke said. Kenney said Council will hold hearings over the summer.

Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said the administration will cooperate with Council's investigation and Nutter said he welcomes any constructive criticism it may bring. 

"We want to get to the truth and the truth will be the truth whatever it is and if there is legitimate criticism then that's what it will be. Our responsibility, certainly at that point is to take whatever reports come in, whether its from the five entities that I've mentioned or City Council's special committee --the point for us is to take the information and do something with it and make things better." 

Meanwhile, District Attorney Seth Williams announced today that a grand jury will investigate the collapse.