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October 26, 2015

Nutter calls for audit of L&I after report of employees not doing their jobs

Mayor Michael Nutter is calling for an audit of Philadelphia's Department of Licenses and Inspections following claims that department inspectors were not doing their jobs.

At a Monday afternoon news conference at City Hall, the mayor cited a Sunday Inquirer story and said that the article's claims that department employees "may not be doing their jobs" are "enormously troubling."

In that article, the Inquirer claims to have researched records from 82 demolition permits that were issued this year and noted that more than 80 percent of the properties involved in those permits were not inspected properly. The article also alleges that the department's databases may have been altered to show inspections as being done, when they weren't and that, in at least one case, inspections that were required during a building demolition hadn't been done until months after the building was already taken down. 

During Monday's meeting with members of the press, Nutter said that he couldn't confirm the accuracy of the article. And, though he didn't point to any specific comment, they mayor said he believes that Mark McDonald, his spokesman, may have been misquoted in the story. 

"If this is true, it's completely unacceptable," said the mayor. "It's enormously troubling. We have to get to the bottom of it." 

In an effort to sift out all the necessary facts, Nutter called for an audit of L&I by the city's Inspector General, Amy Kurland. Nutter said an internal audit would allow his office to find out "who is telling the truth." 

Kurland did not estimate the amount of time to complete such an audit. When asked what he'd want to do if the claims against L&I were true, Nutter said he didn't want to make any decisions until he knows all the facts. 

"I'm not going to take action without factual information," he said. 

Carlton Williams, commissioner of the Department of L&I, was not in attendance at the mayor's announcement. When some members of the press noticed the commissioner's glaring omission, Nutter said that it meant nothing. 

"You should not read anything into that at all," said the mayor. 

Instead, the mayor said that he was ordering an audit to find out "whether or not the inspectors are doing their jobs." 

Kurland said her first concern is finding out if the allegations made in the Inquirer story can be proven by a review of L&I documents. 

"Right now, we have allegations," she said, noting that if an audit finds evidence of wrongdoing "we will take if from there."