Mayor Michael Nutter announced Wednesday morning that Revenue Commissioner Keith Richardson has taken a job with the Philadelphia Housing Authority Development Corporation (PHADC), a community development arm of the Housing Authority. PHADC had its non-profit status stripped by the IRS in 2011. It had failed to disclose several years of required financial data during the trouble Authority directorship of Carl Greene. A spokeswoman for PHA was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.
Nutter named Tom Knudsen, former CEO of Philadelphia Gas Works and Philadelphia Schools’ chief recovery officer, the city’s first Chief Collections Officer, charged with developing cross-agency strategies for improving collections of various debts owed to the city.
Streets Commissioner Clarena Tolson will replace Richardson at Revenue, and Deputy Streets Commissioner David Perri will serve as acting commissioner for that department, Nutter said.
“The creation of a Chief Revenue Collections Officer position is the latest development in a multi-year effort by the Nutter Administration to increase tax and other revenue collection while improving the efficiency of City agencies,” the Administration said in a press release. “… Mr. Knudsen, whose salary will be $160,000, will identify negative trends in collections and develop corrective actions; he will share best practices among City departments and develop new methods to encourage departments to increase collections.”
Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said that the hiring decisions were made in recent days, and that PHA had contacted Richardson and offered him the job. The decision to hire a collections chief was informed by a consultant’s report which analyzed the city’s revenue-collection processes.
The shake-up is announced in the wake of an investigation by PlanPhilly and the Inquirer which found that delinquent property-tax collection in Philadelphia has gotten demonstrably worse under Mayor Nutter; the collection rate here is among the very worst of major cities in the U.S.
Tax collection has also been at the top of City Council’s agenda. Council recently held a series of committee hearings to discuss the delinquency problem and ways to improve it. The six freshmen Council members have launched a “Taxpayer Fairness Initiative,” which is aimed at putting pressure on the city’s tax collection agencies as the Actual Value Initiative is being implemented. A handful of legislative proposals overhauling tax foreclosure methods and dealing with the symptoms of delinquency, vacancy, and blight are moving through Council as well.
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Jared Brey is a freelance reporter based in Philadelphia. His work has been featured in Philadelphia magazine, Hidden City, The Philadelphia Inquirer, City & State, and other publications. He covered development, zoning policy, historic preservation, and city government for PlanPhilly from 2011-2016.