How the Mayor’s Fund was operated under former Mayor Michael Nutter has been under the microscope since allegations first surfaced that the multimillion-dollar nonprofit was treated as a “slush fund.”
But Nutter erupted Monday online after the Inquirer accused former city representative Desiree Peterkin Bell of spending $52,000 without documentation.
Nutter instead cast blame at the feet of Mayor’s Fund executive director Ashley Del Bianco, who he said failed to monitor the fund. He said numerous people within the Mayor’s Fund had access to the credit card, not just Peterkin Bell, and that Del Bianco never raised any concerns while any of the alleged activity was ongoing.
“I am deeply offended that she would so shamelessly backstab so many former colleagues,” Nutter wrote in a fiery 1,500-word screed posted to his website Monday. “It is now clear to me that I was badly mistaken in appointing Ashley to her position, who in my opinion has now publicly demonstrated herself to be an unscrupulous and deceptive individual.”
Del Bianco did not respond to a request for comment. But Mayor Jim Kenney’s office defended her and said Nutter was not being entirely truthful.
“The former mayor’s statement contains numerous falsehoods,” a spokesperson for Kenney said in a statement. “Mayor Kenney has found Ashley to be an excellent executive director of the fund and, based on all the available information, he believes she acted appropriately under the previous administration, as well.”
The Inquirer’s article stated that Peterkin Bell alone was responsible for using a Mayor’s Fund credit card to, for example, take 458 Uber rides in 2015, costing $8,738. City Controller Alan Butkovitz also previously laid all blame for undocumented expenditures at Peterkin Bell’s feet.
Nutter threw doubt on that claim, writing that numerous people at the Mayor’s Fund had access to the card, and Del Bianco was responsible for supervising how the money was spent.
“There is virtually no evidence that she [Peterkin Bell] even personally made most of the expenditures or signed a receipt for them,” Nutter wrote. “Ashley Del Bianco is the one who should be asked and publicly forced to answer why did she so poorly manage the Fund and its records.”
Peterkin Bell also posted a statement online defending herself:
"The baseless claims in today's article give me no pause for concern," she wrote. "I will do what's necessary to defend my name and my record."
So what now? Inspector General Amy Kurland said her office could neither confirm nor deny if they are investigating. Meanwhile, Butkovitz is “currently conducting a follow-up investigation of the Mayor’s Fund,” a spokesman said.
Butkovitz previously claimed Peterkin Bell “used the account as if it were a special slush fund,” after releasing an August audit of a $400,000 account that the fund managed. “It was clear the former chairperson substantially circumvented all policies and approvals,” he said.
Butkovitz also reported in his audit that the Mayor’s Fund was used for an $80 expenditure for shoes from Macy’s, $52,000 for unspecified expenses at the Courtyard Marriott in 2015, $45,000 for flights and hotels to Rome, Italy, and $333 for food and lodging in Portland, Oregon.
Kenney and Nutter have butted heads over Peterkin Bell before. Nutter asked the Kenney administration to keep Peterkin Bell, who also served as his spokeswoman, on city payrolls until she reached five years of employment so she would reach a higher pension level. Kenney declined.