L&I commish disputes controller’s audit of demolition inspections

The scene as it appeared shortly after the June 5, 2013 building collapse at 22nd and Market streets in Philadelphia.  Credit: Metro
The scene as it appeared shortly after the June 5, 2013 building collapse at 22nd and Market streets in Philadelphia.
Credit: Metro

City Controller Alan Butkovitz released an audit Thursday saying that the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspections may not have lived up to their pledge to inspect all demolitions after the Salvation Army building collapse last June.

But L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams said the audit was wrong.

“We ordered inspection of all demolition sites and we did that, our reports show that we did,” Williams said. “Process issues gave rise to the misconception that the city didn’t do its job, when ultimately, we did.”

In the days after the June 5, 2013 collapse that killed six, Mayor Michael Nutter said that all active demolition sites would be inspected and that demolition inspection standards would be tightened.

Butkovitz’ audit found that of 442 active demolition permits at that time, paperwork for inspections of 210 of them was incomplete.

“There is little, if any, evidence to demonstrate that private demolitions are being conducted any more safely today than they were one year ago,” Butkovitz said in a statement.

“Without documentation, there’s no verification as to why the inspections were waived … We don’t know if they were waived for a legitimate reason or if the inspector drove by and just didn’t feel like doing the inspection that day.”

Commissioner Williams acknowledged that understanding L&I’s data systems requires special training, and paperwork reporting by some inspectors can be inconsistent — but denied Butkovitz’ criticism.

“The work was being done,” Williams said. “Of those 442 inspections, we cited numerous safety assessments to make sure that the public was protected.”


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