OUR OPINION: Time For Heads To Roll

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Cartoon-764With innumerable nonprofits operating in Philadelphia under a wide range of goals and missions, it’s becoming routine to learn how scores of them are coming under federal scrutiny for mismanaging or failing to properly use the funds they get – which in some cases are misappropriated by one or more of their officers.


Unfortunately, the higher they go up the political ladder, where funding increases by the millions of dollars, there seems to be less accountability. That has been the history here.


Calling attention to this disparity in one of the major nonprofits is Edward Coryell, executive /secretary treasurer/business manager of the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters. His union and the local Teamsters Union have been locked out of their traditional supportive roles by SMG and Elliott-Lewis Convention Services in a dispute whether or not a contract agreement had been signed on time.


This week, Coryell demanded City Controller Alan Butkovitz audit “Visit Philadelphia” and the “Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau”, which are heavily funded by public money and get literally no oversight.


One of the key employees of Visit Philadelphia had embezzled $210,000, which the agency kept hidden from law enforcement. The employee paid the money back. But a crime was committed. Now an investigation is underway by the District Attorney’s office.


Coryell told Butkovitz his union had earlier sought “copies of receipts and expenditures of both agencies,” covered by this State’s Open Record law. But both denied his requests, though they knew he needed the information to show how wasteful their management was and how little had come from their efforts to draw business to the Convention Center.


Coryell knew both nonprofits kept erroneously blaming the unions for the high costs incurred at the Conventions by exhibitors because of “high” union-employee costs. Coryell explained to Butkovitz, “These two agencies receive $20 million annually from the Hotel Tax, and have the responsibility for generating convention and tourism revenue, but are virtually immune from public scrutiny and oversight.”


An earlier Butkovitz analysis on the two agencies showed much overlap and waste of money. The Controller suggested they merge.


We’ve always thought something was wrong with these agencies, especially when they try to sell Philadelphians and visitors with XOXO messages. We read this as a form of tic-tac-toe and little else.


Now we find a major embezzlement was committed. What else is there to find out?


It’s time for some transparency. City Council members should enter the investigation themselves and begin lopping off heads, starting with Visit Philadelphia Board Chairman Manny Stamatakis.

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