CITY CONTROLLER Alan Butkovitz and Brett Mandel, one of his two foes in the May 21 Democratic primary election, used a debate yesterday afternoon to accuse one another of ethical violations.

Mandel, who finished third in the 2009 primary for controller, claimed that Butkovitz is under investigation by the Philadelphia Board of Ethics for using brochures produced with city money in his campaign for a third term.

"Alan has been using his staff and his resources to produce materials that he distributes at campaign events as if they were political material," said Mandel, who later said he based his claim on an account from one person questioned in the investigation.

Mandel refused to identify that person.

Shane Creamer, executive director of the Board of Ethics, said he could not confirm or deny if such an investigation exists.

Butkovitz said "there's no indication that we're under investigation for anything."

He accused Mandel during the debate of improperly accepting a in-kind campaign contribution worth at least $40,000 from a volunteer who created a website.

Mandel has been touting the "Budget Bulldog" site, which allows users to search for information in the city's budget.

"Is there some exemption for Brett from ethics rules?" asked Butkovitz, who later explained that he hired a Web designer to study Mandel's website. The designer put the value of the work at $40,000 or more, he said.

Butkovitz added that he is now evaluating whether to file an ethics complaint against Mandel.

The third candidate in the race, Mark Zecca, continued to accuse both men of unethical behavior for meeting in February 2012 to discuss ways to avoid a contested election for controller.

Both men say part of that discussion involved Butkovitz hiring Mandel. No deal was reached.

The hourlong debate will air Sunday at 9 p.m. on Larry Kane's "Voice of Reason" show on the Comcast network.

On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN

Blog: ph.ly/PhillyClout.com