Archive: October, 2010
Mayor Michael Nutter and former Mayor John Street haven't had kind of words for each other lately.
But when Nutter credited his predecessor with helping to create The President's House project, which commemorates the site where George Washington and John Adams conducted their presidencies and where Washington kept at least nine enslaved Africans, Heard in the Hall held out hope for detente. Maybe even a buddy movie.
"This work would not have happened without the great work and the great foresight of Mayor John Street," Nutter said at a Friday luncheon of the Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress.
Nutter and Street have been rivals for many reasons, among them that Nutter campaigned as Street's antithesis. In September, Street told the Inquirer that Nutter was "not a black mayor. He's just a mayor with dark skin."
Did Friday's comments thaw Street's feelings?
"I don't think so. Nothing has changed," Street said. "We came here to support a project."
Nutter said he was simply trying to "give credit where credit is due." - Miriam Hill
Click here for Philly.com's politics page.
As head of the voter watchdog group Committee of Seventy, Zack Stalberg isn’t expected to win any popularity contests at City Hall.
But lately, with elections looming, attacks against him have crossed the line from vexing to vicious.
At Thursday’s City Council meeting, Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. said Stalberg and his committee should “shut up” about its opposition to a proposal on Tuesday’s ballot that would require city contractors and recipients of city financial assistance to provide their employees a minimum level of pay - $10.88 an hour - and healthcare benefits.
“I urge voters to vote ‘yes’ on ballot question number one. Tell the rich guys to drive their Jaguars back to the suburbs and shut up when it comes to our economic opportunity,” Goode said.
Philadelphia Sheriff John D. Green on Wednesday postponed his retirement indefinitely to work with City Controller Alan Butkovitz on a full-scale audit of his office to remove the "cloud" resulting from a blistering report from the Controller's Office on Tuesday.
Green, whose was scheduled to retire as of Sunday, said he will stay on for the three to five months a forensic audit would take. Butkovitz called for the in-depth audit of the Sheriff's Office on Tuesday, saying the Sheriff's Office had failed to provide information on its $53 million in accounts, leaving room for fraud and abuse.
"The sooner this whole issue is put to bed, the sooner I can go on with my life," said Green, the elected sheriff for the past 24 years.
"I"m encouraged that the Sheriff recognizes the need for a forensic audit, and I expect his full cooperation, as he indicated," Butkovitz said. But, he added, "We're not going to go through what we already went through -- we're not going to ask for the same records 11 or 12 times."
The Philadelphia Sheriff's Office refusal to release financial information on its bank accounts has set off alarms among auditors in the City Controller's Office, Controller Alan Butkovitz said Tuesday as he called for a full-scale probe of more than $53 million controlled by the Sheriff.
Chief deputy Sheriff Barbara Deeley, who will take over as acting Sheriff when John D. Green retires on Sunday after 24 years, said her office has and will cooperate with the Controller's Office and suggested Butkovitz was launching his campaign for Mayor in 2015 at the outgoing Sheriff's expense.
Butkovitz released an audit Tuesday whose main conclusion was one of concern about the lack of information Green supplied to auditors over the past 18 months. The Controller sought information on three of 11 accounts holding nearly $53 million, and now Butkovitz said he will demand documentation for all 11.
"The Sheriff's ongoing refusal to cooperate and provide the financial materials we requested -- materials and information that are routinely provided by all other city agencies we audit -- raises concerns over the potential risk for fraud and other impropriety," Butkovitz said in an 11 a.m. news conference. "These are real indicators that alarm auditors."
City Controller Alan Butkovitz says the city's Department of Human Services has some record-keeping flaws, with $81 million going to a variety of grant recipients without required audit reports. The report included an examination of spending that spans the Street and Nutter administrations.
Here is the press release:
PHILADELPHIA – City Controller Alan Butkovitz today released the FY06-09 Department of Human Services (DHS) audit that found $81 million in government grants were paid to 11 DHS subrecipients without the department obtaining required audit reports.
For fiscal years 2006 through 2008, DHS did not obtain 13 audit reports due from its subrecipients who were provided with federal, state and city grant funds. The largest amount of grant money was provided in FY08 that resulted in $65 million in payments to six subrecipients; $52 million from the state and $13 million from the city.
City Council on Thursday passed a resolution that aims to end employees' rush to enroll in the DROP pension program by ensuring that those already eligible will have time to enroll if changes are made to the program.
Majority Leader Marian B. Tasco, who introduced the resolution, said she wanted to slow down the flood of employee applications to the program because it could be costly to the city and because people should take time to consider whether DROP makes sense for them.
"What we want to say is, 'Look, don't rush,' " Tasco said.
In August, Mayor Nutter called on Council to kill the Deferred Option Retirement Program, or DROP, citing a study he commissioned that said it had cost the city $258 million over the last 10 years. Since then, nearly 1,200 employees have applied, roughly half of them police. Employees have 90 days after they apply to decided whether to enroll officially.
Attorney Nolan N. Atkinson Jr., a widely respected attorney who helped mend relations with City Council as a member of the Board of Ethics, has resigned his position with the Ethics Board after seven months.
In a letter to Mayor Nutter on Monday, Atkinson said his resignation was brought on by the "possibility of a conflict arising" between Duane Morris, the firm at which he is a partner, and the Ethics Board. The concern arose over Duane Morris' representation of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, though it was not immediately clear what such a conflict would be.
"Although currently I am aware of no conflict of interest that has arisen during my tenure, I cannot predict future events arising from current investigations," Atkinson wrote.
The Housing Authority is currently under criminal investigation by the FBI and HUD Inspector General, and HUD is also performing a thorough audit of its operations in connection with former executive director Carl Greene. Greene was fired by the board last month following revelations of three sexual harassment claims against Greene that were settled without the board's knowledge, and a fourth proposed settlement of a claim that was pending when the board first suspended Greene in August.
Just who does Zack Stalberg think he is?
That's what Philadelphia's election board wants to know, particularly Tim Dowling, the board's campaign-finance and document specialist.
"This guy lives in a fantasy world... He has besmirched the reputation of every employee in this city... He's a freakin disgrace," Dowling said.
With Election Day nearing, the board's regular weekly meetings tend to revolve around matters like are election machines up and running, how many absentee ballots are in and have polling places been relocated.
Philadelphia firefighters will receive 9 percent in wage increases and be protected from furloughs under a four-year contract awarded this afternoon by an independent arbitration panel. But they will continue to be required to live inside the city, unlike police officers who were granted authority to move out of Philadelphia come 2012.
Until now, city firefighters were operating under the terms of a contract that expired more than 15 months ago.
The new terms include no pay increase for the contract’s first year – which has already passed – and call for raises of 3 percent a year in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
The city will continue to contribute $1,270 per employee per month to cover health-care costs, until Dec. 31. At that time, the union’s health and welfare fund will switch to a self-insurance program – as did the city’s police union last year - that is intended to save the city millions in the years to come.
A philanthropic organization will pay $300,000 worth of city bills for Philadelphia's major parades through 2012, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and Mayor Nutter announced Wednesday.
The Greater Philadelphia Traditions Fund, organized by Brady and funded by philanthropist Gerry Lenfest and cheese steak maven Joey Vento, committed $300,000 toward the setup and cleanup costs for which the city began billing parade organizers last year. The money will pay bills from 2009 through 2012.
The deal covers 10 events -- from the Mummers Parade to six ethnic parades to the Odunde Festival, Gay Pride Parade and Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival. The deal is the second wave of relief for parade organizers. In June, City Council overrode a mayoral veto of a bill that precludes the city from charging parades for police costs.
The police costs for those events since 2009 through 2010 will approach $600,000 (not $300,000, as reported earlier), according to the mayor's office. Nutter began charging parades, beginning with the Mummers in 2009, saying the city could no longer afford to pay for the privately sponsored events. Parade organizers pushed back, saying fund raising to pay for the parade itself was difficult enough without having to pay for police and cleanup, and found a backer in City Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, who is heavily involved in Puerto Rican Day festivities..