AS THE CITY controller's chief of staff for the past eight years, Harvey Rice has been analyzing how Philadelphia collects and spends money. In January, he'll start working for a new employer, but his task will remain the same.

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA), the state board that oversees Philly's finances, unanimously selected Rice as its new executive director.

"I feel very excited and I value this opportunity to continue to be in public service," Rice said.

Created during a fiscal crisis in the early 1990s, PICA must approve the city's five-year financial plan every year for the city to keep hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding.

In recent years, some have called on PICA to be more aggressive with other tasks, like performance audits of city departments and policy recommendations.

Asked whether he has such a vision for the agency, Rice said, "What I would like to do is meet with the board members on an individual basis and assess where they believe PICA should go."

The vacancy opened up this spring when Fran Burns, a former Licenses & Inspections commissioner, left PICA about a year after being named executive director. She is now the chief operating officer of the School District of Philadelphia.

It's a homecoming of sorts for Rice, who worked on the agency's staff under former director Joseph Vignola. And he's no stranger to the current board, either.

This fall, Rice, on behalf of Controller Alan Butkovitz, recommended that PICA members vote against Mayor Nutter's proposed five-year plan, citing its dangerously low projected fund balances.

PICA's staff, under Interim Director Steve Camp-Landis, issued a similar recommendation but the board voted to approve it. (The plan has since been revised with higher fund balances because of increased revenue projections.)

Rice is "a known entity, and we have a lot of confidence in his ability to carry out the wishes of the board and to represent PICA," board member Greg Rost said.

Rice, a Northeast Philadelphia native, lives in Fishtown. He has undergraduate and law degrees from Temple University and is an Archbishop Ryan graduate. Before joining the Controller's Office, he served as the city's safe-schools advocate for five years.

Butkovitz called Rice "a strong executive" and "very much a detail person."

The controller said that he has not decided who will replace his chief of staff, but added that one candidate is Bill Rubin, whom Butkovitz hired after Rubin lost a bid to unseat City Councilman Brian O'Neill in 2011.

Board members yesterday also lauded Camp-Landis for his service during the transition - it was his second time serving as interim director.

"You did an excellent job, and not through an easy time - on both occasions," board Chairman Sam Katz said. "Let's just hope, Steve, that this is the last time for a while that you have to serve as interim executive director."

Twitter: @SeanWalshDN
Blog: ph.ly/PhillyClout