To Plato Marinakos, the role of an owner’s representative was clear. His job was to keep tabs on the handful of buildings being demolished along Philadelphia’s Market Street and report back with accompanying photos.
He was also authorized to pay Griffin Campbell, the project’s demolition contractor. Safety, Marinakos told jurors Tuesday, was not “in my purview or control.” He said that was Campbell’s responsibility, at least legally speaking.
“I didn’t have any obligation to the contract,” said Marinakos while testifying during the fifth week of the civil trial stemming from the deadly collapse of a Center City building in 2013.
That made sense to Marinakos, a licensed architect who had never served as an owner’s representative on a demolition project and wasn’t familiar with the industry’s guidelines and regulations. Marinakos said Campbell, on the other hand, was “to his mind, an expert in demolition.”
“I had no hesitation [recommending Campbell],” said Marinakos.
It’s unclear if Marinakos still feels that way. During his two days on the stand, he’s dodged questions about Campbell’s qualifications. Lawyers for the plaintiffs have argued Campbell’s lack of experience should have disqualified him for the high-profile job. In his opening statement, lead attorney Robert Mongeluzzi said Campbell was “the last person on Earth who should have been handling this demolition.”
Before Market Street, Campbell worked odd jobs and operated a food truck with his wife, according to testimony. He had never demolished a commercial property, only a pair of burned-out row homes in North Philadelphia. He didn’t have a contractor’s license with the city and had never bid on a project.
On Tuesday, Marinakos said Campbell told him he had “20 years” of demolition experience, and that he didn’t know he didn’t have the proper license or lacked bidding experience before he recommended him to his boss, Richard Basciano, a real estate developer based in New York. Had he known any of that, Marinakos said, Campbell would never have gotten the job.
The night of June 4, 2013, Marinakos stopped by a site near 22nd and Market streets, where a four-story building was being demolished. A freestanding, three-story wall hung above the adjacent Salvation Army Thrift Store.
Marinakos told Campbell he had to get the wall down immediately, but didn’t call Basciano, the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections or police.
The following morning, the wall stood until around 10:42 a.m., when it pancaked onto the busy thrift store, killing six and injuring 13 more.
On Monday, Marinakos said he wasn’t responsible for the wall’s collapse.
“If [Campbell] put the right manpower to it, he would have gotten it down,” said Marinakos.
Testimony continues Wednesday.