As Philly officials disclose ’13 freebies, government watchdog renews call for ban on gifts

    Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter received $16,942 worth of gifts and travel in 2013, according to financial disclosure forms filed Thursday.

    They included a $3,080 trade mission to London and Israel, a $775 trip to the Panama Canal with Vice President Joe Biden, $11,381 worth of travel during his tenure as president of the United States Conference of Mayors, and dinner and reception tickets worth $610 to the hobnobbing Pennsylvania Society event.

    Plus, a $661 trip to an the Mayor’s Innovation Summit in New York City, a $335 pen and $100 cuff links.

    Nutter’s donors included PECO, Select Greater Philadelphia, Aspen Institute and Sheaffer Pen Company.

    Nutter wasn’t the only local official to receive gifts in 2013. City Controller Alan Butkovitz was treated to two sets of gala tickets worth $1,400, and Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown got $500 dinner and reception tickets to Pennsylvania Society.

    Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. also received dozens of tickets to events including the Auto Show and Mann Center concerts, which he says he provided to community members.

    In March, the City Council banned cash gifts to city employees and officers and set a $99 annual limit for non-monetary gifts.

    Barry Kauffman, executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause Pennsylvania, says the freebies that local officials received in 2013 are “troubling.”

    He gives credit to Philadelphia lawmakers for passing new gifts regulations this year, but he wants them to go a step further. He is pushing for a complete ban on gifts in Pennsylvania, a call he renewed after news broke in March that four state lawmakers had accepted cash and money orders from a lobbyist in an undercover sting operation.

    Nutter and City Council President Darrell Clarke did not provide comment on Kauffman’s proposal.

    A spokesman for Nutter pointed out that he signed an executive order that prohibits gifts to administration employees from lobbyists, city contractors and almost anyone else who stands to gain from the local government.

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