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November 4, 2013

Nutter names commission to probe L&I

062413_art_600Mayor Nutter yesterday appointed a special commission to investigate the Department of Licenses & Inspections in the wake of the deadly Center City building collapse in June.

City Treasurer Nancy Winkler, whose 24-year-old daughter Anne Bryan was one of six people killed in the collapse, had called for a blue-ribbon commission on the department. L&I was scrutinized after the collapse, in which a wall from demolition site fell onto a Salvation Army thrift store next door and crushed those inside, because the demolition had been approved and inspected.

Nutter said the commission will have full access to the department and its employees and will operate independently of the administration. The commission will propose its own budget and produce a report by July 1.

The commission will be chaired by Glenn Corbett, a fire science professor at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Peter Vaira, a former federal prosecutor who was involved in the Abscam scandal, will be executive director.

“We’re after facts. We’re after information to find out, if something went wrong, want went wrong,” Vaira said. “Our objective is to bring to the mayor on July 1 a plan to make this the best L&I department in the United States.”

Asked whether the tragedy could have been prevented if L&I had done something differently, Nutter said it would be “inappropriate” for him to speculate.

“I’m not going to try to Monday-morning quarterback this thing about woulda, coulda, shoulda,” Nutter said. “A tragedy happened. We know that. We’re trying to improve our operations so that something like this might not happen in the future.”

Victims and their families, including Winkler and her husband, have filed lawsuits against the property owners of the demolition, the contractor, an excavator operator and others. None has been brought against the city.

Winkler’s family issued a statement applauding the announcement: “There is no way to reverse what happened on June 5th, but this is a genuinely sincere and immensely encouraging effort by the Nutter Administration to make sure such a disaster can never happen again.”

The other commission members are:

– Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, L&I committee chairwoman

– Emily Bittenbender, Bittenbender Construction

– Ryan Boyer, Laborers District Council of Philadelphia

– Robert Brehm, Drexel University professor

– Lorraine Brown, The Temple Group

– Jim Dollard, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98

– Anne Fadullon, Building Industry Association of Philadelphia

– Scott Knowles, Great Works Symposium director and Drexel University professor

– Steven Lakin, General Building Contractors Association

– Angelo Perryman, Perryman Building and Construction Services

– Gregory Stewart, Gilbane Building Company

– Francis Vargas, Allied Construction Services