CITY HALL SAM: Thunder and Lightning, Nutter and Butkovitz

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The usually relaxed atmosphere in City Hall during summertime is filled with dreams of heading to the shore, enjoying the surf sun and sand. But this summer, these dreams have been ripped apart by a political thunderstorm.

The storm that ripped through City Hall featured a slow-moving, strength-gathering cold front which collided with a warm front, producing a war of words that featured damaging hail, tornadoes, and lightning.

Former MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER and CITY CONTROLLER ALAN BUTKOVITZ exchanged sharp words and fulminous accusation after the Controller released an audit questioning expenditures by a nonprofit that was tied to the economic development work of Mayor Nutter. The nonprofit used money to finance expenditures and trips by Nutter, his aides and others to help attract tourism and economic development to the city. This includes the Mayor’s trip to Rome that successfully encouraged POPE FRANCIS to come to Philadelphia for the world meeting of families.



Well, the questioning of expenditures is a regular part of the City Controller’s audits. And the use of nonprofits by governments for economic and tourist development is growing. So that is normal. What was not normal were the words used to unveil this report and the response from Nutter and his former aides. This particular report generated a blistering heat wave of negative feelings and sharp comments.

Many City Hall observers were not surprised. Controller Butkovitz and Mayor Nutter did not have a good relationship during Nutter’s tenure in Philadelphia. CHS is unaware of why or how this relationship became so unsettled and fractured. It seemed to get worse and worse each year that Nutter was in office. What is clear is that there is no love between these two men, and the pent-up mutual mistrust and dislike between Butkovitz and Nutter rolled into the public like a classic mid-Atlantic summer thunderstorm.

So what is the long-term impact of this public spat? It’s not clear at the moment. Nutter’s aide has threatened to file a lawsuit against Butkovitz. Butkovitz and his team do not seem worried about the threat of a lawsuit, noting that they are 2-0 in recent defamation lawsuits.

One thing is for sure: If the lawsuit moves forward, expect things to get uglier, angrier and more heated than an August day in the City of Brotherly Love.

Maybe it be will upgraded from a severe thunderstorm to a hurricane. The US and European models show different storm paths. We will have to wait to see which one is correct.

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