Nutter announces shakeup of top collections officials

Mayor Nutter on Wednesday named Thomas Knudsen as Philly's first chief collections officer, a position the mayor created to deal with tax-collection problems across city government.

Knudsen gained a reputation as an effective crisis manager by guiding the School Reform Commission and Philadelphia Gas Works through periods of turmoil.

Nutter also named Clarena Tolson, formerly of the Streets Department, as the new revenue commissioner. She is replacing Keith Richardson, who will lead the Philadelphia Housing Authority's Development Corporation. 

Dave Perri, of the transportation and utilities office, will replace Tolson as head of Streets. 

The difference between the chief collections officer and the revenue commissioner is that the former will coordinate efforts across all city departments that collect taxes or fines (Fire Department, Licenses & Inspections, etc.), whereas the latter operates within the Finance Department.

The creation of the new position was based in part on a recommendation from FTI Consulting, which the administration hired to find spending and collections efficiency in city government. 

The city has faced widespread criticism recently for its abysmal record on collections after a recent Plan Philly/Inquirer investigation highlighted the city's difficulties with delinquent taxpayers. Elected officials have also complained about the city's collections rate which has been an issue as the city moves to a new property-tax system based on market values.