Almost a quarter million dollars in questionable charges should be reimbursed to the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia, the city controller said Wednesday.
About $220,000 in questionable credit card purchases were made in 2015 from the fund, said Alan Butkovitz. The fund was established with a stated purpose of improving the lives of all city residents.
“This total amount includes more than $50,000 at the downtown Marriott during the papal visit and $45,000 for flights and hotel rooms associated with a trip to Rome, which we reported as part of our initial report,” he said. “In addition to these there were several other questionable purchases.”
The other charges include almost $9,000 in Uber charges for former Managing Director Desiree Peterkin Bell and a farewell party for Mayor Michael Nutter, Butkowitz said.
“There was little if any indication from documents and those who attended, as to how this event benefited Philadelphians except those in the mayor’s inner circle. It was wrong for the city’s former leader and other in power to use this money to fund a farewell bash, especially when this is money that is supposed to support youth programs, families in need, environmental initiatives and many other community-based needs,” he said.
Asked if the “questionable” charges could be considered illegal, Butkovitz said, “We are forwarding it to all the local law enforcement agencies. We are presenting them with all of our facts and hope they will sort out any legal issues there may be.”
Peterkin Bell wrote in a direct message from Twitter that Butkovitz’s report is an election year stunt by the controller who faces a challenger in the Democratic primary.
She declined further comment when asked about the mayor’s party and her Uber charges.
Eight hours after our initial request, Mayor Nutter sent the following statement.
“I have always taken fiscal management and accountability seriously, and these principals were the hallmark of my Administration. The allegations by the City Controller are completely false and baseless. I find perplexing that he alleges there is no information about expenditures, and then purports to give a report with details about the same expenditures made with credit cards, so obviously there is information available.
The legitimacy of any investigation is also questionable where, as here, the City Controller has NEVER posed a single question to me, directly sought an explanation from me or the individuals whose integrity his reports impugn. I am confident that all of these dollars were spent for allowable purposes, and of course, the proper receipts and record keeping should be available. Let’s look at one example.
The Controller seems obsessed with the Papal preparations and visit which were all well publicized, which he continuously criticized, as if he dislikes the Pope. The entire City knew that some Adminstrstion members were traveling to Rome, and the Papal visit was great for Philadelphia. I am more troubled, however, by the Controller’s persistent determination to “litigate” this matter through press confereces, rather than to conduct a thorough investigation by first giving the individuals whose conduct he criticizes the opportunity to meet and discuss concerns, respond to his assertions, and then incorporate their responses into a complete report, as is the Controller’s historic usual practice. That process was not followed in this case, and you must question why not.
The Controller is desparately fabricating an issue where there is no real issue. When you look at the calendar, you really have to question his tactics, motives and timing.”