Council President Darrell Clarke pulled an unusual procedural move yesterday to hide the votes of Councilmembers who opposed a Parking Authority audit, reports Ryan Briggs.
In the wake of the Parking Authority's sexual harassment scandal, Councilman David Oh saw an opportunity to once again introduce his resolution calling on the City Controller to do a performance audit of the PPA.
That resolution had previously failed to gain traction in Council after lobbying from the PPA, but who could oppose a performance audit now, with public esteem for the already-unpopular Authority is such a low point?
Twelve Councilmembers, it turns out.
Oh's resolution was defeated 12 to 5, with only Helen Gym, Allan Domb, Cindy Bass, and Mark Squilla voting with him.
Incredibly, Council President Darrell Clarke brought up the resolution for a rare show of hands vote that prevented the 'No' voters from having to go on the record against the PPA audit.
In another unusual move, Clarke initially called for a voice vote on the resolution. When that vote appeared to be split, Oh called for a roll call vote to record the names of votes for and against the resolution.
Clarke and chief clerk Michael Decker then consulted the rules of council, ultimately determining that the council president had the power to call for a show of hands in favor of the vote.
Gym, Cindy Bass, Mark Squilla, Allan Domb raised their hands in support of the bill, with all other members opposed.
Since the Council President's office has set up Legistar so it doesn’t record votes, and the only way to get them is via transcript, the hand vote meant this was essentially off the record. Or, it would've been if the room wasn't full of reporters.
The larger significance is that Clarke rarely allows bills that don't have unanimous support to come up for a vote--a practice that obscures political and ideological differences between Councilmembers and makes it difficult to scorecard them at election time. The optics of blocking a vote on the PPA audit resolution in the wake of the harassment scandal would've been pretty bad, so Clarke opted to hide the votes instead.
The case for pressuring Alan Butkovitz to do a real performance audit of the PPA is strong, however. The last Controller audit was conducted in 2009, and it was not a performance audit, as Patrick Kerkstra wrote at the time.
A draft of a pending Philadelphia Parking Authority audit contends that the agency is top heavy with managers and “ineffective in controlling costs,” and concludes that it could generate more money for the city’s general fund and the School District of Philadelphia through reforms.
The long-awaited 37-page report offers only a limited examination of the state run agency. It is not a performance audit, nor is it the “desk audit” Gov. Rendell called for in 2007 following news accounts that documented overspending and rapid payroll growth at the Parking Authority.
How and why the audit’s scope was scaled down is a matter of dispute between Rendell’s office and City Controller Alan Butkovitz, who supervised the audit, which was executed by a local consulting and accounting firm for $122,000.
The reason to be concerned about administrative bloat and waste at the Parking Authority is that all the revenue they raise after overhead gets split between the City and the School District.
A performance audit would likely highlight reforms that could cut the bloat, and ultimately result in more revenue for the city and school district budgets. But it would also likely rattle the Councilmembers and politicos who see the Parking Authority as a source of patronage jobs, which is why a modest resolution asking for an audit can't even pass Council after an ugly PPA sex scandal.