L&I takes criticism from all sides in June 5 building collapse
The collapse of the Salvation Army store on June 5 has put the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections smack in the middle of the controversy. In the last week, department officials have heard from the contractor whose firm was responsible for demolition at the site as well as Mayor Michael Nutter.
On Tuesday, television station CBS 3 reported that the contractor went before licensing officials to appeal his license suspension. The city temporarily suspended the license, the contractor’s attorney told the panel, without evidence that the contractor had anything to do with the accident; nor has the contractor been charged with any crime. The city has, the attorney continued, deprived the contractor of his right to make a living and should reinstate the license immediately.
The hearing was continued after the attorney’s statement, so no one has any answers yet. The city, however, has made it known that it would like to revoke the contractor’s license permanently.
The person who is facing criminal charges — for involuntary manslaughter — is the worker who was operating the excavator at the site that day. Blood tests after the collapse showed evidence of marijuana use. The contractor maintains that he did not authorize the use of the excavator; it was his plan, he has stated, to have the structure demolished by hand.
The licensing department cited “unsafe demolition practices” when it suspended the contractor’s license, but both victims and a few families of the people killed in the collapse have been asking the city to investigate the department’s own practices. The mayor answered them on Thursday by announcing that he has assembled an independent commission to review the department’s actions.
Headed by a former U.S. attorney, the panel’s 15 members come from the construction industry, academia, unions and city government. The group will review and evaluate the department’s operations, organizational structure, staffing policies, budget and technology practices, as well as reviewing how the city imposes fines for city code violations. The review will look at both past and current policies and procedures and will, Nutter said, include recommendations for improvement.
The mayor expects the final report by July 1, 2014.
CBS 3 Philadelphia, “TV EXCLUSIVE: I-Team Interview With Contractor In Center City Building Collapse,” Walt Hunter, Oct. 29, 2013
Philadelphia Business Journal, “In wake of building collapse, Nutter appoints panel to probe L&I,” Nov. 1, 2013