Council Committee eyes administration communication prior to building collapse

Councilmen and women from left, Jannie Blackwell, James Kenney, Curtis Jones, Jr., Bobby Henon, and Maria D. Quinones Sanchez question Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Carlton Williams, center left, and during a public hearing into the building collapse that killed six people and injured 13 others earlier this month, Wednesday, June 19, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

For years, City Council has complained that the various departments within the Nutter administration seemingly operate in silos --an issue raised during a hearing today investigating the fatal Center City buidling collapse in June.

The Department of Licenses and Inspection issues licenses and permits. First time applicants must be tax compliant in order to receive a permit or license. The Revenue Department is tasked with collecting taxes and going after tax deadbeats. 

"How many times can you get a payment agreement?" Councilman Jim Kenney asked Frank Breslin, deputy commissioner for the Revenue Department. "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?"

The contractor, Griffin Campbell and Plato Marinakos, the expediter involved in the building collapse on 22nd Street near Market that left six dead and 13 people injured, had both filed for bankruptcy. Marinakos owes the city thousands of dollars in taxes dating back to 2002. He pulled permits for the demolition in February.

"The thing that's sad is it could have been stopped across the desk, at that permit issuance if Revenue had communicated with L&I," Kenney said. Breslin said the city is working to establish a data warehouse that will allow various departments to easily access and share information.

Breslin said generally, a person gets about three chances. The first time the city offers a "generous" payment plan. But, if a person defaults on that plan, they're offered a less generous payment plan the second time.

"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."

Council will hold its next Special Invesitgatory Committee meeting Aug. 1, City Hall at 10 a.m.