CITY CONTROLLER Alan Butkovitz is pretty whipped up about somebody in the Municipal Services Building harassing a top aide.
The troubling tale took a turn toward "City Controller CSI" last month when Butkovitz hired a private investigator to dust a bathroom-stall door for fingerprints, and question a dozen employees.
Philadelphia Weekly reported Wednesday that graffiti in the men's room near Butkovitz's office in the MSB crudely described a sex act between the aide and his partner, who holds a contract with the controller.
Butkovitz told us that he hired the investigator, but denied the Weekly's claim that employees had been fingerprinted. He said that the investigator asked a dozen employees to fill out a "psychological questionnaire" and used them as handwriting samples to compare to the bathroom graffiti.
The case remains unsolved, said Butkovitz, who expects a bill of about $8,500 from the investigator. The firm, he added, cut its hourly rate by 25 percent for the controller.
Butkovitz said that this is the latest example of harassment of his aide, starting with similar graffiti on a bathroom urinal.
Then came a spike found in a flattened tire on the aide's car.
And then someone put urine in a bottle of water the aide had left in an office refrigerator.
Butkovitz is sure that these events are related and calls them "hate crimes," although they were not reported to police.
He said that the aide worried about drawing even more attention to himself by getting the police involved.
Did his January "Off the Cuff" column by Philadelphia magazine chairman Herb Lipson cost his publication the high-end advertising dollars drawn by the annual "Super Lawyers" edition?
Lipson groused about a 1970s libel case that his magazine lost, appealed, and then settled.
He also claimed that an attorney friend had told him that the case had been fixed against the magazine.
Laura Feldman, president of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association, tore into Lipson in a long letter to the editor in the latest issue, noting that she is "in possession of the settlement documents" from the case. The documents include an admission from Lipson, she wrote, that he falsely claimed that the libel case had been fixed.
In an editor's note after the letter, the magazine said that Lipson "regrets the disparaging comments made" about the local legal system and apologized for them.
Feldman didn't just get mad. She got even, asking Tom Duffy, the incoming president of their group, to urge local attorneys to pull their ads from the "Super Lawyers" edition.
Duffy said he heard that the special section, which runs every June, pulls in "mid-six-figures" for the magazine.
The June 2011 edition was 91 pages, about 70 percent ads from attorneys and 30 percent the "Super Lawyers" list compiled each year by Thomson Reuters.
"Does it really make sense to send a bunch of money to people who say that type of stuff about us?" asked Duffy, adding that all the law firms and attorneys he contacted pulled their ads.
The magazine's president, David Lipson, Herb's son, and publisher, Marian Conicella, did not respond to our detailed messages this week.
A "Super Lawyers" spokeswoman said that the feature would still appear in the magazine in June but would also be published in a Sunday edition of the Inquirer.
State Rep. Mark Cohen, thinking that his streak of 28 years without an election foe would continue, called a ward leader in December, moments after the General Assembly approved a Legislative Reapportionment Commission plan that shifted an expected challenger out of his district.
In a voice-mail for Sharon Losier, the 61st Democratic Ward leader, Cohen said that the residence of her nephew Numa St. Louis was shifted in the redistricting to the adjacent district of state Rep. John Myers, who is not running for re-election.
"If he wants to run for the Legislature, there's an open seat for which to run," Cohen said in the voice-mail to Losier.
But then the Supreme Court rejected the redistricting plan, and St. Louis was back in Cohen's 202nd District, which stretches from Ogontz to Rhawnhurst.
Cohen, who is now challenging the nominating petitions that St. Louis submitted to get on the April 24 Democratic primary ballot, rejects the claim that the voice-mail was political intimidation.
"It was information," Cohen said. "I would think a lot of people would love to wake up some day to find they are in a district with an open seat. That's the political dream for many people."
"Make no mistake, they are
tipping the scales of power in their own favor."
- Sam Smith, state House speaker, complaining yesterday about a Supreme Court order to schedule special elections for six vacant House seats, including three in Philadelphia.