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March 29, 2017

City Controller: Philly should seek $240,000 back for Mayor's Fund

More than a year after former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter left office, the fallout from his feud with City Controller Alan Butkovitz remains alive and well.

On Wednesday, reviving the acrimony that erupted last August, Butkovitz called for The Mayor's Fund to seek reimbursement for more than $240,000 in allegedly questionable credit card purchases that were not properly documented during the final year of Nutter's second term. 

The Mayor's Fund, a nonprofit account subsidized primarily with proceeds from the Philadelphia Marathon, is intended to finance activities that "improve the quality of life for all Philadelphians," including scholarships and grants for local organizations.

Last year, Butkovitz accused Nutter of using the fund's reserve account as a "slush fund" under the management of former Chairwoman Desiree Peterkin Bell. He cited $246,091 in questionable credit card expenditures without receipts or documentation, including Nutter's $45,519 trip to Italy, $704 in Uber rides in June 2015 and $80 for a pair of women's shoes at Macy's.

At the time, Nutter unequivocally denied any misuse of funds, adding that Butkovitz is "a liar, a snake and a hypocrite" who never approached him about any suspicion of wrongdoing.

Butkovitz had said he was tipped off to the alleged improprieties by Ashley Del Bianco, the former executive director of The Mayor's Fund, over about $52,000 charged at the Philadelphia Courtyard Marriott from Sept. 15, 2015, through Oct. 3, 2015.

Nutter again expressed "disgust" last week that Del Bianco would have requested a review into the fund's management under Peterkin Bell, who worked in the Mayor's Office for nearly six years before the Kenney administration took office.

Doubling down on Wednesday, Butkovitz said that more than half of the $334,000 spent by the fund in 2015 could not be substantiated with proper documentation or justified on the basis of the fund's mission. He referenced $11,010 for charges related to restaurants and meals, $7,176 for charges related to airfare travel and $4,000 for charges related to ride-sharing services and taxis.

“The Mayor’s Fund serves as an essential fiscal agent to fund programs that are supposed to benefit Philadelphians of all ages,” Butkovitz said. “Just because it is not city money does not mean it should be treated as a grab bag of cash with no oversight or accountability.”

An additional $22,100, according to the Controller's Office, was paid through The Mayor's Fund for Nutter's farewell party; that guest list consisted of his executive team, some staff and those who assisted on his 2007 campaign. Butkovitz cast the celebration as a "VIP event" and said Nutter, who has since moved on to multiple university and media roles, should reimburse the fund.

The remaining funds, about $220,000, would be collected from individuals in the Nutter administration who were deemed responsible for making credit card purchases that didn't fulfill the fund's mission, a spokesperson for the Controller's Office explained. 

“It was wrong for the city’s former leader and others in power to use The Mayor’s Fund’s money to fund a farewell bash," Butkovitz said, "especially when this is money that is supposed to support youth programs, families in need, environmental initiatives and many other community-based programs.”

The city controller's latest report has been sent to several local, state and federal agencies, and the investigation remains ongoing.