OIG Saved or Recovered $9 Million in 2016
Mar 30, 2017
PHILADELPHIA - The Office of the Inspector General today released its annual report, which shows that in 2016, the Office saved or recovered $9 million for the City, approximately five times its annual budget.
The $9 million in savings and recovery comes from pension disqualifications, demotions, suspensions and DROP program forfeitures, through fines and assessments, and from funds returned to the City through restitution. The report also shows that investigations have led to 75 instances of employee discipline, 15 criminal enforcement actions, and four policy recommendations. The OIG concludes the report with highlights from the first year of its partnership with the Philadelphia School District.
“We thank Mayor Kenney for his continued support. This year’s report reflects our goal of ‘building on a foundation of integrity’—not only preserving, but expanding our mission as the City continues to grow and evolve under a new administration,” said Inspector General Amy Kurland. “We are working hard to uphold a culture of ethics and integrity in government.”
The Kenney Administration and OIG worked together to staff the new Administration with individuals who will best represent these values. In 2016 the OIG conducted 228 background investigations on senior-level appointments in City government, various boards and commissions. The OIG also assisted with training and educating new employees on integrity issues.
Over the last nine years, the Office of the Inspector General has helped the City save or recover a total of more than $80 million. Investigations since 2008 have led to more than 400 administrative actions and the arrest or indictment of 96 individuals.
For many of its cases in 2016, the OIG relied on close collaboration between the Law Department and other City departments, as well as law enforcement partners, including the District Attorney’s Office, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office.
The report is available online at the OIG’s website here
Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General Recognized by the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity
Mar 16, 2017
The OIG is selected to publish a best practices guide for Columbia Law School’s Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity
PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General today released a best practices guide designed to help anti-corruption agencies maximize the impact of their annual report. The guide was published by the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity (CAPI) at Columbia Law School as an installment of an ongoing series.
“How to Craft a Powerful Annual Report: Using an annual report to earn public trust, advance key goals, and tell your agency’s story,” explores the OIG’s report-writing process step-by-step, following six key guidelines accompanied by examples from the OIG’s previous annual reports.
This piece is the second issue of CAPI’s Integrity in Brief Series, which features practice-oriented guides authored by anti-corruption scholars, practitioners, and policymakers. The series is an effort to make relevant research accessible to the wider public integrity community.
The OIG was identified as the leading authority in annual report writing among all of CAPI’s affiliated organizations.
“We are very pleased and honored that CAPI selected our office as a leader in this field.” Kurland said. “CAPI has been a great resource for us and we are happy to share our expertise with our anti-corruption partners.”
CAPI is a non profit resource center dedicated to bolstering anti-corruption efforts around the globe. The Center convenes leaders in the public integrity field, advances relevant research and scholarship, and promotes tools and best practices to help governments and practitioners fight corruption.
The Integrity in Brief series is sponsored by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. CAPI plans to publish 10 installments each year. Intended for both professional and general audience, future topics include public ethics training, new developments in federal anti-corruption law, and best practices from cities overseas.
“How to Craft a Powerful Annual Report” and other issue briefs are available here
City Integrity Officers Take Oath of Office and Jim White Named Recipient of the Inspector General’s Joan Markman Award for Integrity
Mar 08, 2017
PHILADELPHIA — Mayor Jim F. Kenney and Inspector General Amy L. Kurland presided over a ceremony in City Hall this afternoon, where 36 Integrity Officers swore an oath of office to report fraud and misconduct by City employees and to assist the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) with investigations. Judge Stella Tsai of the Court of Common Pleas administered the oath.
“The City’s Integrity Officers serve as one of our most important resources in the fight against fraud, corruption, abuse, and misconduct,” said Mayor Kenney. “These employees selflessly accept extra responsibility and take on duties that fall outside the scope of their job titles to support the OIG’s mission of upholding the public’s trust.”
Each City department has a trained Integrity Officer who serves as a critical point person, providing on-the-ground research and knowledge to OIG investigators. All Integrity Officers are appointed by the Inspector General based on their track record of ethical service.
Inspector General Kurland also announced Jim White, Deputy Chief Information Officer and Chief Operating Officer at the Office of Innovation and Technology, as the recipient of the Inspector General’s 2017 Joan Markman Award for Integrity. This Award recognizes a City employee who demonstrates a strong commitment to integrity, diligence and transparency on behalf of the City of Philadelphia and works with the OIG. The award, previously named the Inspector General Integrity Award, honors the memory of Joan Markman, the City’s first Chief Integrity Officer who passed away January 15, 2015.
“Jim White is an exemplary public servant and dedicated partner to the OIG. He has demonstrated time and time again that we can depend on him to display exceptional judgment on integrity issues,” said Inspector General Amy L. Kurland. “I am honored to recognize Jim’s outstanding service with this award.”
White received a $1,000 award prize, two free tickets to a Phillies game, a certificate in recognition of his achievement and a photograph memorializing the recognition.
Jim White has worked for the City of Philadelphia for 22 years, serving as Deputy CIO and COO for the last five years. As his department’s integrity officer, White has collaborated with the OIG on several widespread investigations. Recently, Jim worked with the OIG to investigate a City unit where employees were routinely stealing time. In addition to several suspensions and a termination, the investigation resulted in in significant changes to the unit’s oversight methods.
Jim White holds a MS in Information Science from Pennsylvania State University, a BS in Computer Science from Spring Garden College, and a BA in Communications from the University of Connecticut.
Before joining OIT, Jim served as IT Director, among other roles, at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. Jim has worked for the City since 1995, and previously worked as a CAD Engineer and Network Administrator in the private sector.
About the Inspector General
The mission of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is to enhance the public confidence in the integrity of the City government by rooting out corruption, fraud, misconduct, waste and mismanagement. For more information, log on to: http://www.phila.gov/ig.
City Inspector General Releases Policy Recommendation Report on Homestead Exemption
Feb 08, 2017
PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General (OIG) today released a policy recommendation report that identified 558 properties for which the Homestead Exemption, a real estate tax deduction that is available for Philadelphia homeowners’ primary residences, may have been incorrectly approved.
The Homestead Exemption was introduced in 2014 as a part of the Actual Value Initiative (AVI), a tax initiative that uses updated values (including size, age, location, condition, and use) to more fairly determine property tax assessments. While this tax initiative is more accurate, the change also caused some residents’ taxes to increase significantly. The Exemption offered relief for these homeowners by reducing the taxable value of their primary residences by up to $30,000.
In February 2014, the OIG received an anonymous tip about a possible misapplication of the exemption, prompting a long-term investigation to review and evaluate the City’s administration and enforcement of the initiative. Working together, the OIG and the Office of Property Assessment (OPA) flagged 558 properties where there was evidence that the exemption may have been incorrectly awarded. Under the City’s policy, the exemption application required no documentation, and the City did not verify the information given, resulting in very liberal granting of the deduction. Had the Exemption been denied, taxpayers would have been liable for approximately $683,000 in property tax revenue from 2014 to 2016.
“We want to thank OPA and Revenue Departments for their assistance in this major policy reform effort. True reform lies in the ability to prevent a problem from recurring. We have outlined the steps we need to take to restore integrity to the Exemption application process and to discourage future attempts at fraud,” said Inspector General Amy L. Kurland.
This policy recommendation report encourages the Revenue Department to continue to screen for factors that are indicative of misapplications, such as properties owned by corporations and/or other business entities; properties with active rental or vacant property licenses; and any two properties with the same owner information. The report also recommends that the City update the Exemption application to require more information; to request supporting documentation; and to assess back-taxes, penalties and interest to recoup lost revenue from properties where the Exemption has been removed.
“The Department of Revenue shares the Inspector General’s commitment to preventing the incorrect granting of tax credits and we appreciate her diligence on the matter,” said Revenue Commissioner Frank Breslin. “The Administration agrees that in instances of fraudulent credits, the City should assess back taxes, interest and penalties when the situation warrants it. We are also committed to making relief easily accessible to all eligible households, and we believe additional documentation requirements would create a greater burden on homeowners, reducing their likelihood of enrollment. It is a strategic decision designed to encourage enrollment to keep the barriers to entry low and follow up with enforcement later to maximize the number of households taking part in the program.”
In response to the OIG report, the Revenue Department initiated its own audit of Homestead Exemption applications. To date 674 homeowners have been contacted requesting supporting documentation. Of those, 192 have responded and their documentation has been sent to Revenue for review. Revenue has completed 111 reviews resulting in 28 exemptions being removed and 83 exemptions being deemed appropriate. The Department plans to continue and expand its auditing of the Exemption applications.
To view the full policy recommendation report, visit here.
Office of Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against an Individual Deceptively Soliciting Consumers to Pay for Copies of their Deeds
Oct 12, 2016
Office of Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against an Individual Deceptively Soliciting Consumers to Pay for Copies of their Deeds[-]
PHILADELPHIA —Inspector General Amy L. Kurland today announced that the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General filed a civil consumer protection lawsuit against Wanda D. Rogers, who is accused of soliciting private business by misrepresenting a government entity.
The lawsuit was filed following an investigation conducted jointly by the Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General, the Office of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, the Philadelphia Department of Records, and the Philadelphia Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
According to the lawsuit, Rogers sent solicitation letters to new Philadelphia homeowners, offering to forward a copy of the deed upon completion of a form and payment of a processing fee. Some letters bore the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania seal and were signed by two fictional employees of the Philadelphia Deeds and Registry Offices, which is a fictitious government office.
The lawsuit alleges that Rogers violated Consumer Protection Law by deceiving consumers into believing that there is a connection between the letter and the City of Philadelphia.
"The city provides services at no cost to the public, and those services should never be misappropriated for private gain," said Kurland. "We can't allow people to take advantage of the public's trust in government."
In addition to restitution for consumers, the lawsuit seeks civil penalties of $1,000 for every violation of the Consumer Protection Law, and $3,000 for every violation involving a consumer 60 years old or older.
“As the official responsible for the integrity of the City’s land title records, I take matters like these very seriously,” said James P. Leonard, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Records. “Left unchecked, scams like these can erode the public’s confidence in the City’s deed recording system and often disproportionately affect our most vulnerable citizens.”
The lawsuit was filed by Deputy Attorney General Nicole R. DiTomo of the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Anyone victimized by this scheme can contact the Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General at 215-686-1770, or the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Bureau at 1-800-441-2555.
Woman Charged with Theft and Embezzlement from Philadelphia Non-profit Serving Children
Sep 29, 2016
Woman Charged with Theft and Embezzlement [-]
from Philadelphia Non-profit Serving Children
Sonja McQuillar, 50, of New Castle, Delaware was charged today by Indictment with two counts of theft from a program that received federal funds and one count of making a material false statement, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger and Philadelphia Inspector General Amy Kurland.
McQuillar was the Director of Health and Information Management at Northern Children’s Services (NCS), a nonprofit organization that provides mental and behavioral health treatment services to children. One of her responsibilities at NCS was to verify the accuracy of consultants’ invoices and submit them for payment.
McQuillar allegedly caused to be prepared consulting invoices for relatives and personal friends who were never consultants for NCS, and for individuals who were consultants for NCS, but for work they did not perform. According to the indictment, she then forged the names of the recipients to cash the checks. Between roughly December 2002 and April 2014, McQuillar allegedly obtained approximately $607,067 from NCS through embezzlement and theft.
If convicted the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 25 years’ imprisonment, a $750,000 fine, three years’ supervised release and $300 special assessment.
“Every nonprofit that receives taxpayer funding accepts a responsibility to give charitably with integrity. These funds were designated to help some of Philadelphia’s children who are most in need,” said Inspector General Amy L. Kurland. “I'm grateful for our federal law enforcement partners for their close cooperation in this investigation.”
The case was initiated by a tip to the Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General and was also investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michelle Morgan.
An Indictment, Information or Criminal Complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Inspector General and School District Partnership Proves Successful
Sep 26, 2016
PHILADELPHIA- A more-than-year-long partnership between Office of Inspector General and the Philadelphia School District has greatly strengthened the District’s internal management and spending controls, according to Inspector General Amy L. Kurland.[-]
“Tough times require heightened diligence. Our goal has been to help the District increase oversight and compliance and develop a robust system of internal controls,” said Kurland.
In January 2015, citing the City’s track record of success, the School Reform Commission asked the Inspector General to review the School District’s internal investigative operations and establish a similar model of oversight. With this vision in mind, the City and School District executed a memorandum of understanding, which has since been renewed twice.
Kurland’s assessment of the ongoing partnership came after Deputy Inspector General for the Philadelphia School District Maryanne T. Donaghy delivered a presentation to the SRC on the District’s accomplishments since partnering with the Inspector General. That presentation came during the SRC monthly meeting on Thursday, September 15th.
In October 2015, Kurland appointed Donaghy, former Assistant U.S. Attorney and former Certified Public Accountant, to lead the District’s office. Together with the City’s OIG, Donaghy and her team investigate allegations of fraud, waste, mismanagement and abuse. In just one year, the partnership has produced significant results.
“With Amy’s institutional knowledge and Maryanne’s investigative and accounting background, they have the right insight and experience to build a more effective system,” said Marjorie Neff, Chair of the School Reform Commission.
Under Kurland and Donaghy’s leadership, the office has already released ten reports of investigation that have resulted in corrective action for a charter school, six instances of employment discipline, and three policy recommendations to prevent time theft, procurement fraud, and misuse of District funds.
“We believe that if the District can police itself, the public will be confident that the District has a stable and well-run infrastructure that can provide quality education to our children,” said Kurland.
While the partnership is still in its early stages, Kurland is confident of its long-term success. “Our work at the District is especially important because every case has the potential to meaningfully change the course of a child’s education.”
Imhotep charter pays for overcharging Phila. district
Sep 26, 2016
By Martha Woodall, Staff Writer[-]
POSTED: January 22, 2016
The School District of Philadelphia and Imhotep Institute Charter High School said Wednesday that they had reached a settlement over allegations that the former charter administrators fraudulently billed the district for two special-education students.
Imhotep, which has replaced its board and brought in new management, denied any wrongdoing. The charter has agreed to repay the district nearly $16,100 for inaccurate invoices.
Investigators in the district's charter office and the city Inspector General's Office found evidence that the charter in East Germantown had billed the district for the entire 2013-14 academic year for a student who attended for only one semester.
They also determined that Imhotep had given auditors forged signatures for a student's legal guardian who had died.
As part of the agreement, Imhotep said it would submit a written policy to the district describing steps to ensure that attendance and enrollment data are submitted to the district accurately, and would train staffers who handle those records.
The School Reform Commission will be asked to approve the settlement Thursday.
While the sum that Imhotep has agreed to repay is modest, a district spokesman said, it demonstrates the efforts the district will take to ensure that billings are accurate.
"Our aim is to erase fraud and waste from the district, because our schools can't afford to lose any more money," said Amy L. Kurland, the city's inspector general.
Former Executive of Philadelphia Non-Profit Charged with Misusing More Than $15K in Public Funds
May 11, 2016
PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General today announced the arrest of the former Executive Director of a crime victims advocacy organization in Philadelphia for allegedly misusing more than $15K in public grant money, following a joint investigation with the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General.[-]
Stephanie Mayweather, 52, oversaw the daily operations of East Division Crime Victims Services, an organization started in 1993 to provide free services for victims and witnesses of violent crimes in south Philadelphia. Mayweather was responsible for ensuring the agency’s financial compliance. She maintained policies and financial records, paid the agency’s monthly bills and secured yearly grant funding from the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD).
An examination of East Division Bank records found that numerous, non-service related charges were made to the agency’s account over a three-year period. The records displayed charges for restaurant meals, grocery stores, ATMs, hotels, a personal cell phone plan and tuition at a University.
“For those who receive support from EDCVS, the impact of this theft is profoundly real,” said Inspector General Amy L. Kurland. “The loss of $15K worth of services is a direct threat to the well-being of these victims and witnesses.”
According to the criminal complaint, Mayweather allegedly charged these services to the East Division account, knowing they were not permissible expenses. The complaint contends that, in total, she personally benefitted from $15,121.39 in unallowed charges made between January 2010 and May 2013. Mayweather is charged with felony counts of theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, receiving stolen property and theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received.
Mayweather, of Mullica Hill, N.J., was arraigned Tuesday evening in Philadelphia. She was released on her own recognizance. A preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for May 25.
This case will be prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Michelle L. Laucella of the Office of Attorney General's Criminal Prosecutions Section.
Head of Mental Health Clinic Charged in Fraud Scheme Involving Federal Funds
Apr 05, 2016
PHILADELPHIA – An indictment was unsealed today charging Renee Tartaglione, 60, of Philadelphia, PA, with conspiracy, fraud, and theft involving a nonprofit clinic which provides mental health services to persons eligible under Medicaid. According to the indictment, Tartaglione defrauded the Juniata Community Mental Health Clinic (JCMHC) by misappropriating funds of the clinic. The charges were announced by United States Attorney Zane David Memeger, FBI Special Agent-in-Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr., IRS Criminal Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Akeia Conner, and Philadelphia Inspector General Amy Kurland.[-]
Specifically, it is alleged that between 2007 and 2015, Tartaglione, as President of JCMHC’s Board of Directors, defrauded and stole money from JCMHC through a series of actions designed to benefit Tartaglione at the expense of the clinic. It is alleged that Tartaglione purchased the building on 3rd Street in Philadelphia which housed the clinic and then raised the rent, repeatedly, causing the clinic’s rent for the 3rd Street building to increase from $4,500 per month to $25,000 per month.
It is further alleged that in July of 2010, a co-conspirator, known to the Grand Jury, made a deposit on the purchase of a building located on 5th Street in Philadelphia using a check signed by defendant Tartaglione. In December 2011, the conspirators, through Tartaglione’s company, Norris Hancock LLC, purchased the building on 5th Street, and, in December 2012, leased it to JCMHC under a lease that called for rent of $35,000 per month for the first two years, and $75,000 per month for the next three years. The indictment alleges that the rent Tartaglione charged the nonprofit clinic was substantially in excess of the market rent.
The indictment alleges that neither the rent increases nor the lease agreements were approved by JCMHC’s Board of Directors and that Tartaglione and her co-conspirators created false and fictitious documents in an attempt to make the transactions appear legitimate.
The indictment also charges that Tartaglione defrauded and took money from JCMHC through kickbacks from persons who were issued checks drawn on JCMHC’s accounts, and by causing JCMHC to pay Norris Hancock more than 12 months of rent in some years.
The indictment further alleges that Tartaglione falsified Federal income tax returns by underreporting her income for tax years 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012.
“Non-profit organizations, including those that deliver health care, hold a special place in our society, and the people who manage them are required to act in the best interests of the nonprofit,” said Memeger. “When instead, those trusted leaders decide to commit fraud, and line their pockets with the funds of the nonprofit, they appropriately face the severe consequences of a federal prosecution.”
“The IRS enforces the nation's tax laws, but also takes particular interest in cases where someone, for their own personal benefit, has taken what belonged to others,” said Conner. “With both law enforcement and financial investigation expertise, our agents are uniquely qualified to assist federal law enforcement agencies with these types of cases by following the money.”
“We’re committed to holding nonprofits accountable because of what’s at stake: the well-being of some of our most vulnerable friends and neighbors,” said Kurland. “For those who depend on our nonprofits, the impact of fraud is real and direct. It’s the bed that’s no longer available at a local shelter. It’s the shuttered soup kitchen in a neighborhood that desperately needs one.”
If convicted of all charges, the defendant faces a substantial prison term, restitution, possible fines, supervised release, and special assessments.
This case was investigated by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Bea Witzleben.
An Indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Inspector General Hosts Meeting with International Women of Courage Award Winner
Apr 05, 2016
PHILADELPHIA– The challenges facing women in leadership positions was among the topics today as Philadelphia Inspector General Amy Kurland hosted a winner of the U.S. Department of State’s “International Women of Courage” awards.
Kurland held a morning meeting with Debra Baptist-Estrada, Port Commander at the Department of Immigration in Belize. Baptist-Estrada is one of 14 award recipients honored last week in Washington by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry. The U.S. officials praised her two decades of work battling corruption within the Belize Department of Immigration.
The State Department asked Kurland to host today’s meeting because of the anti-corruption efforts of the Office of Inspector General. “We’re proud and honored that the work of our office is recognized in this way by federal officials,” said Kurland. “I was equally honored to meet and spend time with this courageous woman, who is an inspiration to many others – women and men – around the globe.”
Baptist-Estrada is one of two “Women of Courage” winners visiting Philadelphia. Joining her is Thelma Aldana, Attorney General of Guatemala, who was honored for bringing corruption charges against many of that nation’s politicians, including the president who appointed her.
Their visit was hosted by Citizen Diplomacy International, the State Department's partner in Philadelphia. "It's a great honor for Philadelphia to be selected as one of the host cities for these exceptional women and to have the opportunity to showcase the many organizations that advocate for social progress and human rights in our city," said Siobhan Lyons, president and CEO. Inspector General Kurland will also join the two award winners on Tuesday morning as they are honored at a breakfast hosted by Citizen Diplomacy International and Fox Rothschild.
The annual “International Women of Courage” awards were established by the State Department in 2007. They honor women around the globe who State Department officials say have exemplified “exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for human rights, women’s equality, and social progress, often at great personal risk.”
Three PGW Contractors Will Repay $735,000 Following OIG Investigation
Feb 11, 2016
Philadelphia, February 11, 2016 – The City of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) have reached no-fault agreements with three PGW contractors that failed to properly install concrete and asphalt over PGW gas lines after they were repaired or replaced.
An Office of the Inspector General investigation established that General Asphalt Paving Company of Philadelphia (GAP), Anthony Verrecchia & Sons, Inc. (Verrecchia) and Cedotal Construction, Inc. (Cedotal) billed PGW for paving work that did not satisfy the terms of PGW’s contracts with the companies. Core samples extracted from PGW project sites did not meet State or City standards for concrete and asphalt installation. All three companies fully cooperated with the OIG’s investigation.
“PGW ratepayers should not have to bear the burden of inflated street paving costs,” said Inspector General Amy L. Kurland. “It is our aim to make sure that companies charge PGW only what is necessary to keep our gas lines safe and secure.”
The companies have agreed to settle the matter with and PGW for a collective total of $735,000, but they deny any wrongdoing or breach of contract. All three companies have also signed corporate integrity agreements with PGW, certifying that they will fully comply with the regulations for installing asphalt and pavement. PGW may withhold payment from the companies for any future work deemed inadequate. The companies will also adopt written policies and procedures to help their employees understand and follow street-paving regulations. At least one hour of relevant training will be required for those who work on PGW contracts and projects.
“We wish to thank the Inspector General for her assistance in resolving this matter,” said Craig E. White, President and Chief Executive Officer of PGW. “We are confident that these agreements will correct past deficiencies and enhance PGW’s paving operations moving forward.”
The Executive Summary of the investigation can be found on the OIG’s website: www.phila.gov/ig/reports
OIG Audit Finds L+I Often Failed to Follow Inspection Guidelines
Dec 22, 2015
Philadelphia, December 22, 2015 — The Department of Licenses + Inspections often has failed to follow its own guidelines when inspecting properties scheduled for demolition, an Office of the Inspector General audit has found, but there is no evidence that L+I inspectors deliberately doctored records to make it appear that demolition sites had been inspected.
The audit came at the request of Mayor Michael Nutter, who asked the OIG to address allegations made by anonymous L+I inspectors in a Philadelphia Inquirer article published on Oct. 25, 2015. The OIG examined all records related to 100 private demolition projects that occurred from Jan. 1 to Oct. 8, 2015. Investigators also interviewed L+I inspectors who had been assigned to oversee those demolition projects.
The Inquirer’s reporting on L+I’s failure to follow inspections guidelines was accurate, but OIG investigators did not verify the newspaper’s claim that “the agency’s database appears to have been altered to show that demolition inspections occurred when they had not.”
Inspectors who spoke to the Inquirer incorrectly interpreted the cause of the discrepancies in L+I’s database. The discrepancies were the result of widespread confusion in L+I about when and why to mark an inspection as “passed.” In the majority of permits reviewed by the OIG, the assigned inspector improperly passed at least one inspection that should have been waived.
In the absence of clear and consistent guidance, inspectors passed the permits to close out work orders in L+I’s database. Often, the permits were passed because it was unclear how to inspect a certain type of building or because there were problems with scheduling a timely inspection.
“We’d like to thank the Inquirer for bringing this matter to our attention,” said Inspector General Amy L. Kurland. “We will continue to work with L+I to make sure that the department promptly and safely inspects properties that are slated for demolition.”
The full audit report, including recommendations to address the OIG’s findings, is posted online here: http://bit.ly/1Oiqgvc.
The Inspector General's Joan Markman Award for Integrity is Announced
Sep 15, 2015
Philadelphia, September 15, 2015 — Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced the nomination
period for the Inspector General’s Joan Markman Award for Integrity, recognizing an individual who demonstrates a strong commitment to integrity, diligence and transparency on behalf of the City of Philadelphia, is now open. The award, previously named the Inspector General Integrity Award, honors the memory of Joan Markman, the City’s first Chief Integrity Officer who passed away January 15, 2015.
“Joan Markman was an exemplary public servant and I was honored to have her serve as the City of Philadelphia’s first Chief Integrity Officer. She embodied the qualities of this award and displayed them every day in work and life – integrity, honesty, diligence and transparency. It is fitting that the Inspector General’s Integrity Award be renamed in Joan’s honor,” said Mayor Nutter. “Integrity and ethical government have been an important foundation for my Administration. I look forward to recognizing the winner’s commitment to upholding the public’s trust later this year.”
The eligibility requirements for the Award are as follows:
• Recipients must be City employees, individuals who work with the City of Philadelphia, or members of the public; and
• Recipients must work with the Inspector General’s Office to assist with an investigation of significance to Philadelphia.
• Cabinet members and Department or Agency Heads are not eligible to receive the award; but they are encouraged to nominate individuals for the award.
“The Inspector General’s Joan Markman Award for Integrity recognizes individuals who work with the Inspector General’s Office to provide meaningful assistance in an investigation of significance to the City of Philadelphia. We are proud to honor Joan and her commitment to the City of Philadelphia through this award,” said Inspector General Amy Kurland.
Nominations will be accepted until October 16, 2015. Nominations must include an essay describing the nominee’s work with the Inspector General’s Office, commitment to going above and beyond the call of duty, and support of the Inspector General’s mission of upholding the public trust with the highest standards of ethics and integrity by rooting out fraud, corruption or misconduct. [See attached nomination instructions.] Nominations should be submitted to Coleen Yenoli, Chief Administrative Officer, Office of the Inspector General at email@example.com or 601 Walnut St., Suite 300E, Philadelphia, PA 19106.
The nominations will be reviewed by Inspector General Kurland and her leadership team. They will select the winner, who will be announced in December 2015.
The award winner will receive a $1,000 award prize and be recognized by the Mayor in a ceremony in City Hall in December 2015. The award winner will also receive two free tickets to the Mayor’s Box for an upcoming event, a certificate in recognition of his or her achievement and a photograph memorializing the recognition.
Former City Employee Sentenced for Million Dollar Ink Cartridge Scam
Jun 09, 2015
PHILADELPHIA – Calvin Duncan, 63, a former Philadelphia Water Department employee, was sentenced today to 24 months in prison and three years of supervised release for a scheme to defraud the City of Philadelphia of more than $1 million. Duncan, of Philadelphia, worked as a mailroom clerk and was responsible for purchasing supplies, including printer ink and toner cartridges, for PWD’s administrative offices. Between January 1, 2006 and January 5, 2012, Duncan ordered printer ink and toner cartridges, for which the City of Philadelphia paid approximately $1,368,091.19, falsely claiming that the cartridges were for PWD employees’ use. Instead, Duncan sold the cartridges for approximately $545,412.79 and had them shipped to his co-conspirators using PWD’s UPS shipping account. Duncan pleaded guilty, on August 9, 2013, to five counts of mail fraud. [-]
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Jan E. DuBois ordered restitution in the amount of $1,368,091.19 and ordered forfeiture of $545,412.39. Duncan’s co-conspirators, Derek and Danita Willis, who own Laser Cartridge Plus, Inc. in Russellville, Arkansas, pleaded guilty on April 29, 2014. Derek Willis was sentenced to 36 months in prison; Danita Willis was sentenced to 12 months and 1 day in prison.
Amy Kurland, Inspector General for the City of Philadelphia, testified at the sentencing hearing for Derek Willis and Danita Willis and described the harm as follows:
“The City of Philadelphia could have used that money for a number of things. Approximately 500 students could have been educated. Teachers could have been hired to educate that number of students. That money would have funded the entire Fire Inspection Department at L&I for a year. The money could have also been used for equipment, for body cameras for 200 officers. …When something like this happens, when people are able to steal that amount of money from the city, it makes the citizens lose confidence in government and lose confidence in the city’s ability to function appropriately.”
The investigation was initiated by the Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General and included the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tomika N. Stevens Patterson.
Non-profit executive charged with defrauding organization of more than $90,000
May 01, 2015
Philadelphia, April 30, 2015 – City of Philadelphia Inspector General Amy Kurland and United States Attorney Zane Memeger announced that Rodnell Griffin, 67, was charged by indictment, which was unsealed yesterday, with defrauding the local non-profit for which she worked of more than $90,000. Griffin, of Philadelphia, was charged with ten counts of wire fraud in connection with ATM withdrawals from non-profit bank accounts following an investigation by the Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).[-]
According to the indictment, between 2007 and 2013, Griffin used the non-profit’s corporate ATM card to withdraw more than $85,000 in funds, and she incurred more than $5,300 in associated bank fees. The indictment further charged that Griffin made several ATM withdrawals at local casinos, Sugarhouse and Parx, and used the non-profit’s funds for personal expenses.
“Charitable organizations that receive City funding and other valuable tax benefits exist to help members of our community who may have no other avenue of assistance. When non-profit employees choose to act in their own self-interests, rather than in furtherance of the charity, already disadvantaged people have to suffer even more,” said Inspector General Amy Kurland. “This case represents another step in our fight to protect charitable interests and taxpayer money. I would like to thank our federal law enforcement partners for their continued cooperation and shared commitment.”
Griffin formerly served as Executive Director of the Hunting Park Neighborhood Advisory Committee (HPNAC), a registered tax-exempt organization that provides essential goods and services to some of Philadelphia’s most underserved residents. The organization, located in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia, offers food, clothing and other assistance to individuals and families in need. HPNAC is primarily funded by the City of Philadelphia Office of Housing and Community Development through a federal grant administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
If convicted, Griffin faces a possible advisory guideline sentencing range of 30 to 37 months in prison, a three-year period of supervised release, restitution to the organization and a $1,000 special assessment. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth Abrams.
Inspector General to be honored at annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Dinner
Apr 17, 2015
Philadelphia, April 17, 2015- The OIG is excited to announce that Inspector General Amy L. Kurland was recently named a recipient of Peace Islands Institute’s second annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Award. This award honors law enforcement officials who demonstrate extraordinary commitment to their role in protecting communities, resolving conflict, and advancing public outreach and education. [-]
Deputy Commissioners Richard Ross and Kevin Bethel, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Essam Rabadi, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer were also recognized. An awards dinner will be held at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel on April 23rd, where Zane David Memeger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, will deliver the evening’s keynote address.
Established in 2011, Peace Islands Institute (PII) is a non-profit think tank and peace-building movement that believes violence can be pre-empted through dialogue and educational platforms. By engaging people in a “forum of mutual respect and collaboration,” the institute works to build diverse relationships, combat intolerance, and promote public service. To learn more, visit peaceislands.org/mission-and-vision/.
City Integrity Officers Take Oath of Office
Mar 30, 2015
Philadelphia, March 26, 2015 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter and Inspector General Amy L. Kurland presided over a ceremony in City Hall this morning in which the City of Philadelphia’s 40 Integrity Officers swore an oath of office. Judge Gary Glazer of the Court of Common Pleas administered the oath. [-]
“The City’s Integrity Officers represent our first line of defense against fraud, corruption, abuse and misconduct,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “These dedicated employees set the highest ethical standards in City government and serve as resources for their colleagues to seek guidance and support in their daily tasks as City employees.”
Each City department has a trained Integrity Officer who works closely with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Integrity Officers serve as crucial points of contact for OIG investigators and they provide invaluable research and knowledge in support of the OIG’s work. All of the Integrity Officers were hand-picked by the Inspector General based on experience and a proven track record of ethical service.
“The OIG’s success is a direct result of our strong Integrity Officer Program,” said Inspector General Kurland. “They have courageously accepted additional responsibilities in furtherance of our mission, and we greatly value their contribution.”
At the ceremony, Mayor Nutter and Inspector General Kurland presented this year’s OIG Integrity Award to Special Agent Vicki Humphreys of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. SA Humphreys worked jointly with OIG investigators on several different cases, resulting in many government fraud and corruption convictions and millions of dollars in restitution for the City.
“We cannot accomplish our mission alone – teamwork is essential to our success,” Inspector General Kurland remarked. “The OIG, all of our Integrity Officers, Administration officials, our law enforcement partners and the thousands of honest City employees must work together to give Philadelphians the government that they deserve. I want to thank Special Agent Humphreys for her exceptional efforts in making our city a more ethical place.”
City of Philadelphia Releases OIG Annual Report
Mar 30, 2015
Philadelphia, March 26, 2015 – The City of Philadelphia released the Office of the Inspector General’s 2014 Annual Report, which shows that during 2014, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) saved or recovered $6.4 million for the City and that OIG investigations have also led to the termination or resignation of 19 City employees and the arrest or indictment of 21 individuals at the Integrity Officers’ Swearing-in Ceremony. [-]
“The Office of the Inspector General is an integral part of this Administration’s on-going efforts to maintain the highest standards in City government and works diligently everyday to send the message that corruption and misconduct will not be tolerated in Philadelphia,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “I want to thank Inspector General Amy Kurland and the OIG team for their commitment to enhancing the public’s confidence and trust in City government.”
The $6.4 million in savings and recovery comes from City employees via pension disqualifications, demotions, suspensions and DROP program forfeitures, through fines, assessments and recoveries from business that violated minority-business requirements, and from funds returned to the City through restitution.
“The City’s investment in good government has proven to be financially sound. In 2014, we were able to save and recover approximately four times our annual budget on behalf of the City and its residents,” said Inspector General Amy L. Kurland. “The OIG will continue working hard to ensure that City departments, agencies and employees are doing the right things and that businesses are abiding by City contracts.”
Over the last seven years, the Office of the Inspector General has helped the City save or recover a total of about $58 million. According to the OIG Annual Report, investigations since 2008 have lead to the termination or resignation of 250 employees and the arrest or indictment of 75 individuals.
Many of the OIG’s cases in 2014 relied on close collaboration between the Law Department and other City departments, as well as law enforcement partners, including the District Attorney’s Office, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office.
The report is available online at the OIG’s website atwww.phila.gov/ig/Report/2014%20Annual%20Report.pdf.
Former Non-Profit Executive Pleads Guilty to Stealing Funds Intended to Help Homeless
Mar 13, 2015
Philadelphia, March 12, 2015 – Nathaniel E. Robinson, 62, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty to charges that he used funds intended to help the homeless to pay for his own personal and living expenses. The case was initiated by a tip to the Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General and was also investigated by the FBI. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Karen L. Grigsby. The charges were announced last July by United States Attorney Zane David Memeger and Philadelphia Inspector General Amy Kurland. [-]
Robinson was the Chief Program Officer at SELF, Inc. He was charged along with Erica N. Brown, SELF’s Chief Operating Officer, with theft from a program receiving federal funds. According to the charges, between 2006 and 2010, Robinson allegedly used his corporate American Express credit card at SELF to charge approximately $154,309 of personal expenses. Robinson reimbursed a total of $2,594.30 before his employment was terminated. Today, Robinson admitted that he stole at least $5,000 of SELF’s funds for personal use.
“Every organization that receives taxpayer funding must act as responsible stewards of that money. That duty is even more important in a case like this, where funds were designated to help some of Philadelphia’s residents who are most in need,” said Inspector General Amy Kurland. “This case sends a strong message that misappropriating taxpayer money will not be tolerated. I would like to also thank our federal law enforcement partners for their close cooperation in this investigation.”
According to the indictment, Robinson used the corporate American Express card to pay for car rental charges in Philadelphia and elsewhere; repairs to his personal car; dining charges in Philadelphia, Disney World, Orlando, and numerous other cities; lodging charges, including charges at hotels on weekends in the Philadelphia area as well as charges for lodging in the Dominican Republic and in Mobile, Alabama, where Robinson has family; travel expenses, including airfare for himself and a family member; charges at a variety of stores including DSW Shoe Warehouse, the Boot Barn, Boot City, Nike, Foot Locker, Modell’s, Maron Chocolates, World Embroidery, Disney’s Ear Port, Circuit City, Best Buy, IKEA, Sears, and Walmart; parking tickets; legal fees; and entertainment charges at places such as Morey’s Pier, Clementon Park, and Six Flags Great Adventure.
Robinson will be sentenced by Honorable Berle Schiller on June 8, 2015. He faces a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison, restitution, up to three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.