IN A COMPLETE about-face, the Nutter administration released scores of documents yesterday related to the deadly Center City building collapse that claimed six lives last month.
Email exchanges among city officials, the Salvation Army thrift store and the property manager and reports from the Department of Health and the Department of Licenses and Inspection were all posted to the city's website.
Despite requests for access to those documents by various media outlets, the administration had refused to make any of it public until now. City Solicitor Shelley Smith said shortly after the four-story building on 22nd and Market streets collapsed onto a neighboring thrift store that the District Attorney's Office had asked that the documents not be released because it could compromise the grand-jury investigation.
Not so, says the D.A.'s Office.
In a July 11 letter to Smith clarifying the office's position, First Assistant District Attorney Edward McCann Jr. wrote "records that were in the public domain prior to the grand jury being impaneled should still be considered public information now."
As a result, Smith said the city then decided to release those documents, noting the decision was unrelated to criticism the administration received for its perceived lack of transparency.
"We do things sometimes that may be unpopular," she said. "We don't react to that kind of criticism."
City Councilman Jim Kenney, who has expressed frustration with the administration, says public scrutiny played a role.
"I certainly think the pressure applied appropriately is responsible for the release," Kenney said. "It's also the law. It's public record. It's pre-collapse."
In the email exchange, the building manager repeatedly reached out to representatives for the thrift shop and subsequently to city officials complaining of a lack of cooperation from the Salvation Army. The building manager also warned the city of a potentially dangerous situation, which was first reported by the Inquirer.
Documents released by the Department of Health showed that a public health asbestos investigator found no asbestos at the property in January. The property was later slapped with six health-code violations in May after an anonymous tip led to the discovery of asbestos in a nearby Dumpster. State asbestos abatement forms filed on June 28 for 2134, 2136 and 2138 Market St. cite asbestos in pipe insulation, floor tiles, roofing, tar and plaster and in the thrift store.
L&I cited Campbell Construction on the day of the collapse. In a violation notice, contractor Griffin Campbell was told he was "previously advised to demolish by hand only, no use of mechanical equipment allowed."