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Rhynhart: Controller failed at preventing Parking Authority 'dysfunction'

With just a month left until the primary elections, Democratic candidate for City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart is throwing punches at incumbent Alan Butkovitz for not auditing the beleaguered Parking Authority.

With just a month left until the May 16 primary, Democratic candidate for city controller Rebecca Rhynhart has chastised incumbent Democrat Alan Butkovitz for not auditing the beleaguered Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA).

Butkovitz last audited the authority in 2009, after a request by then-Gov. Ed Rendell because of overspending  and rapid payroll growth at the Republican-controlled agency.

Since then, the authority has been in the headlines over patronage hiring practices, use of comp time, and lucrative benefits paid to executive director Vincent J. Fenerty Jr., who resigned in the fall after reports that he had sexually harassed two female subordinates.

Rhynhart, who left her position as chief administrative officer with the Kenney administration to run for controller, said that had Butkovitz been doing performance audits on the PPA annually, perhaps he could have prevented or stopped "such a culture of dysfunction."

She said that worst of all, the city and School District have not been getting the level of revenue promised by the PPA.

When Republicans took over the PPA in 2001, then-House Majority Leader John M. Perzel estimated that the agency could provide up to $45 million in annual revenue to the Philadelphia School District. Instead, the PPA has delivered from $2.2 million to $14 million per year. The authority promised the district about $18.5 million a few years ago, but paid only $10 million last year.

Butkovitz said his office is too busy and doesn't have the resources to audit every agency each year.

"We're probably the most productive controller's office in the last 60 years," he said in an interview. "Our resources are strained with all the work we are doing."

Butkovitz said his office does about eight performance audits a year, one of which won a national award this year.  (The controller's office received the top award from the Association of Local Government Auditors for its audit on Philadelphia Fire Department brownouts.)

"Rather than duplicating stuff that other agencies are looking at … we are looking at things no one was looking at," Butkovitz said.

Butkovitz said that there is no need for him to currently audit the PPA given that the state Offices of the Attorney General and Auditor General are looking into the Philadelphia agency.

While the Parking Authority hires an auditor each year to look through its books, Rhynhart said local oversight from the controller is needed.

"I would prioritize the Parking Authority. … It rises to the top of the list," she said. "He has decided to put it on the back burner."

City Council members Helen Gym and David Oh tried last year to pass a resolution calling for the controller to audit the Parking Authority. There wasn't much appetite for the bill with the rest of Council, and it was put on hold indefinitely.