March 20, 2017
Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter issued a sharp rebuke in response to allegations that a former top official misused about $52,000 in city funds.
On Monday, Nutter denied any wrongdoing and expressed "disgust" that the accuser, former fund executive director Ashley Del Bianco, requested a review into questionable expenses incurred by the Mayor’s Fund.
"I find it hard to believe that for at least a full year or more, apparently she had questions and concerns about funding, receipts and documentation for a city entity for which she was the manager, signed checks and was part of the quality control process," Nutter said.
The fund is subsidized mostly by proceeds from the Philadelphia Marathon with a stated goal to "improve the quality of life for all Philadelphians." However, the organization reportedly spent $52,000 without any documentation under the oversight of Desiree Peterkin-Bell, the fund's chairwoman during Nutter's tenure.
Per policy, all expenses needed to be explained, but it was not uncommon for payments to be processed without documentation, according to philly.com:
"Among the unexplained charges were purchases at Macy’s — including one for an unidentified $150 Ivanka Trump-branded item — and J.Crew, meals at posh Center City restaurants, as well as travel to New York, Washington, and other cities.
Absent any explanation of the expenditures, it is impossible to tell whether the credit card expenses advanced the fund’s mission, or simply Peterkin Bell’s lifestyle."
Although there is no evidence to determine whether the city benefited from any of the expenses, Nutter asserted confidence that no funds were mishandled and called Del Bianco "an unscrupulous and deceptive individual."
"I have no doubt in my mind that virtually all of the expenditures in question, and ALL of the expenditures which Desiree Peterkin-Bell personally made, were for proper expenses related to the Office of City Representative or the Mayor's Fund," Nutter wrote.
However, the situation is not the first time Nutter has lashed out after allegations into abuse of the fund.
In August, City Controller Alan Butkovitz released his findings into a probe of the account, noting he was "especially troubled" by $246,091 in expenditures, which included Nutter's trip to Italy, $704 for 33 Uber rides in June 2015 and $80 for a pair of women's shoes at Macy's.
"The reserves account did not help fund projects to benefit all Philadelphians. It was a fund to benefit only a select few," Butkovitz said at the time.
Nutter also dismissed those claims, calling Butkovitz a "liar, a snake and a hypocrite." Peterkin-Bell also denied any wrongdoing.
Butkovitz stopped short of claiming criminal charges should be filed but stressed more investigation was needed.
Del Bianco still serves as the executive director of the Mayor's Fund, but Peterkin-Bell's tenure ended when Nutter left office in January 2016.