Mayor Nutter appointed himself and a trusted aide, Wendell Pritchett, to the board of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority yesterday, and he recommended the board appoint another mayoral confidante - Cabinet member Terry Gillen - as executive director of the agency.
Nutter also intends to become chairman of the five-member board, which meets twice a month, at a meeting scheduled for Monday, mayoral spokesman Douglas I. Oliver said.
The Redevelopment Authority will be the only board on which Nutter serves. His position is unpaid.
The moves signaled the depth of Nutter's concern over what his administration says was the authority's serious mismanagement of the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, the anti-blight program that was the cornerstone of the Street administration.
At the same time, the appointments leave the authority without a representative from Philadelphia's construction-trade unions for the first time in nearly a decade.
"His willingness to invest his time, as well as that of his senior administration officials, underscores the importance of the RDA in bringing jobs, affordable housing and neighborhood improvement to Philadelphia," Oliver said in an e-mail message.
The authority has 77 employees and an annual budget of $10.5 million.
"In past years, the RDA did a lot more economic development," Gillen said yesterday, describing the agency as more narrowly focused on housing under former Mayor John F. Street.
Nutter still wants it to target housing and the development of vacant property in the city, Gillen said. But, she said, "he's interested in having it play a larger role and be a centerpiece of a lot of other policy decisions, too."
Nutter will serve a full five-year term. Pritchett, currently deputy chief of staff and director of policy, will fill a vacant board position that expires in March. Nutter also appointed Jennifer Rodriguez, director of community and economic development at the Asociacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha, to fill a second board seat that expires in March 2010.
One authority board position has long been vacant, and a second opened up with last month's resignation of electricians union leader John J. Dougherty as board chairman.
Yesterday, Mike Fera of the Cement Masons and Plasterers Union Local 592 confirmed that he, too, resigned last month, after serving for eight years.
"Nutter called me and asked if he could have the spot," Fera said. His term did not end for two years, but he agreed. "He's the quarterback," he said. "Let him [have] the ball."
Two Street appointees will remain on the board: Asia Coney and Roxanne Covington.
Gillen, who now serves as senior adviser to the mayor for economic development, will maintain that position, as well as her Cabinet membership. She is a former bond lawyer who during the Rendell administration worked in the city Commerce Department as well as the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. She was also the political director of Nutter's mayoral campaign.
Though she will work at the RDA, Gillen said she would remain on the city payroll and retain her $155,000 salary.
Gillen said her initial conversation with Nutter about the executive director job was last week, shortly after the administration said it had discovered that the RDA had used ineligible bond money as part of the NTI property-acquisition program. The program was designed to acquire dilapidated properties across the city for the use of nonprofits and individuals.
Nutter administration officials estimated that the RDA misapplied about $30 million in bond money; the misuse could have resulted in financial penalties or a lowered bond rating for the authority. Nutter now wants a forensic audit of the agency, though he did not suggest that the misuse involved any deliberate wrongdoing or criminal behavior.
Until the audit is concluded, Nutter has halted the RDA's property-acquisition program, and it is unclear what will become of the thousands of parcels the RDA had already begun to condemn and seize as part of NTI.