Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille pressed for details Wednesday on how $12 million in public money has been spent to date on a new Family Court facility in Center City - including lobbyists' fees, legal bills, and $1 million in land costs on a publicly owned site.
In a four-page letter, Castille's attorney, Henry E. Hockeimer Jr., also called on developer Donald Pulver to explain fees to lawyer Jeffrey B. Rotwitt, his codeveloper, that came on top of $284,000 in payments to Rotwitt's former law firm, Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell & Hippel L.L.P.
The courts hired Rotwitt four years ago to help find sites for the courthouse, but Castille ended the deal last week after he said he learned that Rotwitt was also being paid by Pulver as his codeveloper.
Rotwitt insists Castille and court officials knew about his role as codeveloper all along.
Castille, the Supreme Court's point person for the project, has been deeply involved in the development for three years, but he said in a recent interview that some aspects had slipped by him as the development moved forward. He has authorized much of the spending Hockeimer is questioning on his behalf.
Since The Inquirer reported on Rotwitt's dual roles late last month, the state has stepped in to take over the $200 million project at 15th and Arch Streets, and Rotwitt has been fired by Obermayer, where senior lawyers said they, too, had been kept in the dark about his dual role - an assertion that Rotwitt also denies.
"No further invoices should be submitted" to the courts, Hockeimer, a former federal prosecutor who now works at Ballard Spahr L.L.P., said in his letter to Pulver's attorneys.
They responded by questioning Hockeimer's independence as an investigator, saying Ballard Spahr has been helping oversee the Family Court project for Castille since 2008.
"Indeed, your firm has known for at least months that Mr. Rotwitt was a codeveloper on the project," wrote attorney Robert L. Ebby.
Rotwitt's dual role as the court's representative and codeveloper is just one of the unusual aspects in the courthouse deal.
In his letter, Hockeimer sought invoices to support numerous payments made by the courts, including:
$284,000 in legal fees to Obermayer, apparently for zoning and other matters. A spokesman for Castille said he could not explain those charges. That came in addition to $55,000 a month to Obermayer for Rotwitt's work, or more than $1 million in all. Officials from the Obermayer firm could not be reached for comment.
$297,576 to Pulver for real estate taxes on air rights at the 15th and Arch Street site, which is owned by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, including a $163,000 payment in the first month of a fee arrangement, records show. Pulver was being charged $61,952 a year in city real estate taxes. A spokesman for Pulver said that the extra money apparently went for past years' tax bills.
$1 million for "land" costs, even though the Parking Authority owns the land and was not charging Pulver anything for the air rights. Pulver was supposed to receive $1.7 million total for land costs under a fee agreement negotiated by Rotwitt on Castille's behalf. Pulver said the money was compensating him for his expenses on other deals that never materialized at the site.
$24,000 in design costs and an additional $278,000 in legal fees, for which there were no invoices, according to Hockeimer's letter.
Rotwitt's spokesman, Kevin Feeley, said Wednesday night that his client had long ago answered all of the money issues raised by Hockeimer.
"Mr. Rotwitt has at all times made it clear that he was a codeveloper, made it clear the percentage he was receiving, and all of the parties involved were aware of that," Feeley said.
"We have tried at all times to be open and transparent about this," he said. "Jeff has nothing to hide."
Castille in October 2008 approved a fee schedule provided by Pulver for design expenses and other fees. Rotwitt was supposed to get a total of $3.9 million; Pulver was supposed to get $5.2 million, documents show.
In his letter Wednesday, Hockeimer also asked Pulver's attorneys to explain why $16,172 had been paid to the CCH Partners L.L.C., a lobbying group that includes Lois Hagarty, a former state representative.
Hagarty said in an interview that she had given Pulver advice on the state-funding process.
"I have been Don's trusted adviser for a long time," she said.
L. Stuart Ditzen, a spokesman for Castille, asked whether the courts would try to get any of the money back, said he could not comment.
In a separate letter Wednesday, the Parking Authority's lawyer for the second time told Pulver that his deal to develop the site was canceled.
Addressing Pulver's contention that he had done all that was required to ensure he could develop the site, the authority said Pulver "is factually and legally incorrect."
But Pulver's spokesman, Mark Nevins, said it was the authority that was mistaken.
"Our position, that the Parking Authority had no basis for trying to terminate our mortgage agreement, remains unchanged, and we will continue to vigorously argue our case," Nevins said.