Rhynhart: Controller failed at preventing Parking Authority ‘dysfunction’

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With just a month left until the May 16 primary election, Democratic candidate for City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart has chastised incumbent Alan Butkovitz for not auditing the beleaguered Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA).

Butkovitz last audited the authority in 2009, following a request by then-Gov. Ed Rendell because of overspending  and rapid payroll growth at the agency .

Since then, the authority has been back in the headlines over patronage hiring practices, use of comp time and lucrative benefits paid to now-former executive director Vincent Fenerty, who resigned last fall following reports that he sexually harassed two female subordinates.  

Rhynhart, who left her position as Chief Administrative Officer with the Kenney administration to run for controller, said that had Butkovitz been doing performance audits on the PPA annually perhaps he could’ve prevented or stopped “such a culture of dysfunction.”

 She said that worse of all, the city and school district have not been getting the level of revenue promised by the PPA.

When Republicans took over the PPA in 2001, then-House Majority Leader John Perzel estimated that the agency could provide up to $45 million in annual revenue to the Philadelphia School District. Instead, the PPA has delivered from $2.2 million to $14 million per year. The authority promised the district about $18.5 million a few years ago, but only paid $10 million last year.

“He should’ve been in there years ago,” Rhynart said of Butkovitz in an interview. ” If he was in there doing his job… all of this wasted money would’ve been avoided.”

Butkovitz said his office is too busy and doesn’t have the resource to audit every agency each year.

“We’re probably the most productive controller’s office in the last 60 years,” he said in an interview. “Our resources are strained with all the work we are doing.”

Butkovitz said his office does about eight performance audits a year, one of which won a national award earlier this year.  (The controller’s office received the top award from the Association of Local Government Auditors for its audit on Philadelphia Fire Department brownouts.).

“Rather than duplicating stuff that other agencies are looking at… we are looking at things no one was looking at,” Butkovitz said.

Butkovitz said that there is no need for him to currently audit the PPA given that the state offices of the Attorney General and Auditor General are looking into the Philadelphia agency.

While the parking authority hires an auditor each year to look through its books, Rhynhart says local oversight from the controller is needed.

“I would prioritize the parking authority… it rises to the top of the list,” she said. “He has decided to put on the back burner.”

City Council members Helen Gym and David Oh tried last year to pass a resolution last summer calling for the controller to audit the parking authority. There wasn’t much appetite for the bill with the rest of Council and it was put on hold indefinitely.

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