The Best Zingers From Former City Rep.’s Lawsuit Against Controller Alan Butkovitz

Desiree Peterkin Bell sued the City Controller for defamation, and the complaint is chock-full of contempt and insults.

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Former City Representative Desiree Peterkin Bell sued City Controller Alan Butkovitz yesterday, claiming he defamed her earlier this month by saying she used a city-established nonprofit “as if it were a special slush fund.”

The complaint, which was filed in Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court, is chock-full of contempt and insults toward Butkovitz, who called a news conference last week to draw attention to his office’s audit of the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia.

Peterkin Bell is the former chairperson of the fund, which leverages public-private partnerships in an effort to better the city through scholarships and city programs. Much of the fund’s money comes from the Philadelphia Marathon.

At his press conference, Butkovitz attempted to link Peterkin Bell to what he said were several questionable expenditures, including a $766 one-way flight from San Francisco to Philadelphia, $704 on Uber rides, $52,000 in expenses at a Philadelphia Courtyard Mariott and an $80 pair of shoes from Macy’s. Peterkin Bell left city government at the end of former Mayor Michael Nutter’s term.

Butkovitz alleged that the fund’s executive director, Ashley Del Bianco, first expressed concern over how Peterkin Bell and Nutter were using the fund, though Del Bianco signed off on all expenditures, Peterkin Bell said.

Butkovitz said today that he is aware of the lawsuit and that “auditors are taught that if they get a response like this, it’s highly unusual and suspicious.”

“My job as city controller is to be the city financial watchdog, and that involves looking at financial transactions, reporting to the mayor, the public, correcting the problem and investigating the extent of problem,” Butkovitz said. “If they want to censor me in doing the job that the city designed, they seem to have the theory that they should be able to do whatever they want regarding money in a nonprofit.”

But Peterkin Bell and Nutter aren’t having any of it. First, Nutter released a statement saying that all funds were spent with the executive director’s approval, calling the investigation “the usual hatchet job by Butkovitz,” who he said is “a liar, a snake and a hypocrite” and a “sick and sad person.”

If you thought that was bad, just wait. Here’s more from Peterkin Bell’s defamation suit against Butkovitz:

  1. The lawsuit refers to Butkovitz as “a hyper-ambitious politician who hopes to one day aspire for political relevance” and calls his press conference “a petty attempt to be relevant.”
  2. The lawsuit reads: “Alan Butkovitz decided to use his office as a “bully” pulpit to destroy Ms. Peterkin Bell’s unblemished reputation of public service with the transparent belief that it would embarrass Mayor Nutter, and catapult him back into the spotlight that has long ignored him and that he so desperately craves.”
  3. The lawsuit calls Butkovitz’s press conference a “McCarthyist” tactic.
  4. Butkovitz is called a “do-nothing bomb thrower” in the same sentence in which Del Bianco is referred to as a “vindictive, jealous former co-worker.”
  5. Per the lawsuit: “Butkovitz, however, took his political stunt too far. Butkovitz turned the press conference into his private kangaroo court where he made false and defamatory statements about Ms. Peterkin Bell.”
  6. The lawsuit says Butkovitz “took to Twitter like a pre-teen to broadcast his slander.”
  7. The lawsuit claims that in attempting to be a “whistleblower,” Del Bianco is setting herself up to “sue for retaliation if she loses her job down the road.”

It’s all pretty choice stuff. You can — and definitely should — view the full complaint here:

Peterkin Bell Butkovitz Suit_Redacted by PhiladelphiaMagazine on Scribd

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.

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