Now that the issue of sovereign immunity has been addressed, it makes City Hall’s response to the Market Street building collapse even more confusing and raises the question of whether Mayor Nutter either knows something the public does not know or that he does not want the public to know about the Market Street building collapse. Because the City is immune from civil suits related to the collapse, why have City officials been so terse with their statements regarding the tragedy?
Besides stating what everyone already agrees on — that the collapse is a great tragedy — City Hall has said only that the City is not liable. There has been no promise for a top down investigation of all of the parties involved with a vow to correct the way the City conducts business, if the way it current conducts business had even the slightest role in the tragedy. There has been no call to investigate the culture at L&I or even to see if improvements could be made. (It’s not as if L&I is a model agency that has never had issues over the years. Furthermore, I doubt there is an agency at any level of government where improvements could not be made.)
Why not use the building collapse as an opportunity to make improvements at a agency as important as L&I is to the health, welfare, and safety of the citizens of Philadelphia? Instead, Mayor Nutter has circled the wagons.
Yesterday, we saw what can best be described a by product of some sort of strange gentlemen’s agreement whereby City Council agreed to hold off on asking the really tough questions of L&I officials. If you are not going to ask questions that need to be answered in an effort to effectuate change, why bother holding the hearing? Even the City’s official response the suicide of the L&I official, who apparently inspected the building, was bizarre:
I will state right here, right and now, this man did nothing wrong,” Everett Gillison, Mayor Nutter’s chief of staff, said yesterday. “The department did what it was supposed to do under the code that existed at the time, and we are proud of the department and its employees – period.”
Sounds a tad defensive if you ask me. Moreover, before that statement was made had anyone suggested that the L&I official had done something wrong? Is the investigation into whether or not he or anyone else in L&I already complete? Certainly this is not the type of official statement that is made in response to the suicide of a City employee.
Either the Mayor is getting horrible public relations advice or there is much more to this story, specifically the City’s role in the collapse, that the public just does not know about. The good news is the press is not letting this story go and they are starting to dig deeper. Should make for a very interesting summer in the City of Brotherly Love.