Family Court development deal canceled
By Joseph Tanfani and Mark Fazlollah
INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS
After spending 18 months and more than $10 million, Philadelphia courts administrators under the supervision of state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille have canceled their no-bid development deal on a new Family Court building.
Castille decided to dismiss developer Donald Pulver after The Inquirer disclosed that Pulver had made lawyer Jeffrey B. Rotwitt a partner in the project - at the same time that Rotwitt was being paid as Castille's representative.
Castille says Rotwitt never told him about what he calls a possible conflict of interest. Rotwitt insists Castille knew about it all along, and says he has no conflict because he wasn't acting as a lawyer in the deal, but a broker.
The terse termination letter, sent Wednesday, says that the courts are exercising their option to cancel Pulver's deal in three days.
The state Division of General Services, not Pulver, now will supervise the construction of the $200 million project at 15th and Arch Streets, one of the largest public works projects in the city in a decade. There will be public bids for the construction contracts.
The Philadelphia Parking Authority, which owns the land, also is preparing to cancel Pulver's development rights.
But the courts, on Castille's direction, have already paid out millions in fees to Pulver and Rotwitt, nearly emptying a fund collected from a surcharge on all Philadelphia Family Court filings.
Castille personally spearheaded the project, meeting with politicians and architects and signing off on the fees to Pulver and Rotwitt. He said he authorized the payments, even though there was no signed development agreement, in a gamble to keep the project alive.