City controller's L&I report

Rescue personnel work the scene of a building collapse in downtown Philadelphia that resulted in six deaths.

— AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma

One day after the city controller called for his firing, Carlton Williams, the commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections told The Tribune on Thursday he has “no intention of resigning.”

“It’s very disappointing the controller chose to release his report entitled the Special Investigation of L&I operations without giving the department the opportunity to review and comment on the findings,” Williams said.”I would like to take the opportunity to briefly address some of the recommendations in his report to clarify our response. The mayor made it very clear that I am the commissioner of licenses and inspections and I have absolutely no intentions of resigning as requested by Controller Alan Butkovitz.”

Butkovitz made his remarks and called on Mayor Michael Nutter to implement 10 action steps to reform L&I and ensure safety for all citizens along with the appointment of new leadership.

“First and foremost, Mayor Nutter should immediately appoint new leadership at L&I,” he said. “Illegal demolitions, non-permitted construction and excessive overtime cannot continue when life safety is a daily mission. The mayor has the opportunity to take action today and improve public safety before the end of his administration.”

Nutter rejected Butkovitz’s recommendation and publicly endorsed Williams on Wednesday.

Butkovitz called for L&I to eliminate dangerous and unsafe buildings. The controller sent a list of 100 dangerous properties to the L&I commissioner earlier this year. While action had been taken to demolish some of the properties, he said there are buildings that are now in worse condition and on the verge of collapsing.

“The mayor’s administration has the opportunity to take action and progress public safety for all Philadelphians, starting today,” Butkovitz said. “Hundreds of imminently dangerous homes across our city are only one brick away from crumbling to the ground. Enough is enough. With lives and safety at stake, there is no time to delay, for even another day, any of these action steps.”

Williams said L&I seals properties that are open to trespass. Last year the department cleaned and sealed more than 2,100 properties, at a cost of approximately $3.1 million dollars.

“We partner with the police department to prioritize the sealing of properties that the PPD believes are particularly dangerous or that they have identified as being used for criminal activity,” Williams stated in an email. “The properties are also more susceptible to fire and cause blighted condition in our neighborhood communities.”

The release of the city controller’s investigation immediately precedes the start of the trial of Griffin Campbell on Monday. Campbell is the contractor who allegedly was responsible for a building collapse that killed six people inside a Salvation Army thrift shop at 21st and Market Street in June 2013.

Campbell has pleaded not guilty in the case and the trail is expected to last for several days. His co-defendant in the case, Sean Benschop pleaded guilty earlier this year to six counts of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and related offenses.

Campbell was running the demolition job of a four-story brick building at 2136 Market St. During the operation, a four-story unsupported wall collapsed onto the adjacent Salvation Army thrift store. Six people were killed and twelve others were critically injured. The tragedy, which numerous city officials said did not have to happen, touched off a number of investigations, including a review of L&I.

On the eve of the trial of the contractor who allegedly was responsible for the collapse of a four story brick wall onto The Salvation Army thrift store in 2013, City Controller Alan Butkovitz released his latest investigative report on the Department of Licenses and Inspections, calling for the replacement of Commissioner Carlton Williams.

In response to the report Commissioner Williams said he was not given the chance to review the findings and added he has no intention of resigning.

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