Controller: City mail room a mess

City Controller Alan Butkovitz discusses his investigation into the city's mailroom.

If you have belatedly received a bill, court order, or notice of a parking violation from the City of Philadelphia, City Controller Alan Butkovitz wants to hear from you.

The Controller's Office found 10,000 pieces of mail sitting in baskets, unprocessed, in the city mail distribution center. A several-months-long investigation revealed that hundreds of water bill notices were still in the mail room one day before their due date. Traffic Court subpoenas were also found in the mail room on the same day the individuals were ordered for court, and parking violation notices were found 10 days after their due date, Butkovitz said at a news conference Tuesday.

Butkovitz said it appeared the mismanagement of the mail room has been going on for some time.

"People in this unit understood this was going on and they didn't care," he said.

A spokesman said the Department of Revenue, which oversees the mail room, was addressing "issues related to the Mail Distribution Center."

The Kenney administration declined to make available for interviews either Frank Breslin, the recently appointed revenue commissioner, or Clarena Tolson, the former revenue commissioner, who was in charge of the department during most of the investigative period.

The Inspector General's Office also has an ongoing investigation into the mail room. City spokesman Mike Dunn said city officials were cooperating in that investigation.

"We invite the controller to go to the Inspector General's Office to coordinate with them," Dunn said.

Inspector General Amy Kurland said her office had been investigating the mail room for about six months and only found out last week about the controller's investigation. She would not specify the focus or say what her office had discovered.

This is the first time, Kurland said, that the inspector general and the controller had overlapped in an investigation.

"We really look at different things," she said. Her office focuses on employee misconduct and criminal activities.

The Controller's Office would not comment on the inspector general's investigation.

In addition to the late mail, Butkovitz said, the Revenue Department has been "wasting funds" on postage by not properly sorting the mail. His office found many pieces of mail that were processed at 48.5 cents instead of the presorted 39.1-cent rate.

"For three mail processing runs . . . the city incurred excess postage of $1,218 as a result of not applying the lower postage rate," Butkovitz said.

He said the city spends about $6 million in postage each year.

The Controller's Office is asking that any residents and businesses who received late notices from the city contact the office's fraud hotline 215-686-3804 or email at FraudTips@PhiladelphiaController.org.

"We believe tens of thousands of Philadelphians could have been impacted by the mismanagement in the mail center - mostly subject to mail they received late," he said.

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