June 3, 2009 – Butkovitz’ Report Reveals $54 Million in Uncollected Fines

Audit Date: June 3, 2009
Controller: Alan Butkovitz

Executive Summary


For Immediate Release:
June 3, 2009

Contact: Harvey M. Rice
(215) 686-6696

Butkovitz’ Report Reveals $54 Million in Uncollected Fines
Deficient collection efforts for trash, sanitation and other citations

Click here to view the report

PHILADELPHIA – City Controller Alan Butkovitz today released a special report on the Office of Administrative Review (OAR) that found $54 million in uncollected fines for trash, sanitation, false burglar alarms and hundreds of other City violations.

OAR, a unit of the Finance Department, administers the enforcement for Philadelphia’s violation codes. The Controller’s report found weak practices and minimum efforts to collect millions owed the city. Of the $54 million in outstanding fines, almost $20 million is owed from violations issued in the last three years.

SWEEP citations, which are primarily issued for trash and sanitation violations, account for more than $16 million of the $20 million in uncollected fines within the last three years. These violations also include code infractions for unauthorized signage, excessive noise, smoking in a prohibited area, littering, failure to post permits and many others.

During fiscal year 2008, there were 81,079 violations issued and only $2.5 million collected for fines issued that year as well as from previous years.

“The City has gone to a great expense to establish a bureaucracy to enforce compliance with these codes and to collect revenue from fines for failure to comply with these codes,” said Butkovitz. “The least the City can do now is to collect the fines issued for violating codes.”

Almost $3.5 million remains uncollected within the last three years from fines for excessive alarm violations which are issued after the third false alarm results in a police response. OAR also is not collecting the total owed for annual burglar alarm registrations.

“If the City is going to go to all the trouble and expense of issuing citations, then it should also go through with collecting the revenues from these citations,” said Butkovitz.

The Controller’s report noted that OAR’s own collection process is deficient. Once a citation has been issued, it is sent to OAR for review which can then take two to three months before it is sent to a private contractor for processing. After referring delinquent and unpaid violation notices to the Municipal Courts for a judgment, there is minimum effort to inform violators of the judgment and little effort to collect fines and court costs.

“OAR must increase its collection efforts and seek assistance from the City’s Law Department in taking further legal action,” said Butkovitz. “It must also improve the accounting and monitoring of unpaid and overdue alarm registrations as well as require all outstanding fines to be paid in full before L&I can issue or renew any permits.”

Along with deficient collection efforts, Butkovitz also noted, “OAR doesn’t add any interest or additional penalties on outstanding judgments, which is a direct violation of Philadelphia City Codes.”

“Philadelphia’s current financial predicament cannot allow for any money to slip through the cracks,” said Butkovitz.

“The money is owed. We know who owes it. The City should collect it.”

Click here to view the report