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In February 2012, Joyce Levitt resigned as Chief Financial Officer of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) a nonprofit that uses money from the city’s hotel tax to promote tourism in the region.
Levitt’s departure, after nine years as CFO, wasn’t announced by the organization, which is now known as Visit Philadelphia.
Since she left, the matter has been kept quiet.
However, a routine review of GPTMC’s federal tax forms, detailing the financial information of the nonprofit, revealed some answers, buried in the footnotes. According to these tax forms, Levitt for several years used more than $200,000 in GPTMC funds for personal expenses.
The misuse of funds is revealed in a single sentence on page 30 of GPTMC’s federal tax forms for the year 2010.
Under a heading “excess benefit transactions,” the form mentions Levitt’s name as a “disqualified person.” A footnote next to her name says: “Over the past 5 years, the disqualified person used company funds to pay for personal expenses and was not authorized to do so, however the individual made full restitution of all amounts and resigned in February 2012.”
The same tax form lists, under “the amount of tax imposed on the organization managers or disqualified persons during the year,” an amount of $52,500.
GPTMC answers to its board; those board members contacted were unwilling to talk. Calls to the office of Manuel Stamatakis, chair of the board, went unreturned.
Chris Goy, a spokesman for Councilman Jim Kenney, a member of the board since 2008, said the councilman would not be making a statement.
Mayor Michael Nutter also has a seat on the board, but has a City Representative fill that roll for him.
“The then City Rep was informed of the issue after it was resolved and then informed the Mayor of the matter,” Mark McDonald, the mayor’s press secretary, wrote in an email. “As to public release of information on this, you should take that up with the Visit Philadelphia leadership.”
GPTMC did respond with a statement by Paula Butler, vice president of communications, confirming an audit uncovered the expenditures.
“All unauthorized expenditures were identified and repaid in full,” Butler said. “The Board of Directors was alerted to and made aware of the incident at the time, and reviewed and approved the 990 before it was filed. Because restitution was made in full, the matter was not referred further.”
What the expenditures in question were used for, why it took GPTMC several years to uncover them, how and how quickly the funds were paid back – are questions that remain unanswered.
Asked to answer those questions, Butler, responded that her organization could not comment further because the situation “is a personnel matter and is subject to a confidentiality agreement.”
The group’s tax forms themselves cover scant detail, other than the brief description.
The only other reference to the alleged incident appears in tax forms for the following year, 2011, where the amount of $210,000 is listed under the heading “other revenue” as “reimbursement from a former employee.”
A note deeper in the 990 says, “other revenue includes $210,000 for the year ended September 30, 2012 for reimbursement from a former employee in connection with improper expenses charged to GPTMC, which were for the personal benefit of the former employee.”
Levitt, who currently works as Director of Finance at Benefits Data Trust, a nonprofit, which helps individuals in need access public benefits, said both parties agreed to a confidentiality agreement and that she could not comment further. As CFO of GPTMC, Levitt made about $150,000 annually.
Recently, the city approved a fifty-cent increase to the hotel tax. The money from the hotel tax is split evenly between GPTMC and the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, which handles promotion and marketing for the Convention Center. In its federal tax form for the year 2011, GPTMC received $8,223,363 in revenue from the hotel tax. That amount made up more than 70 percent of the organization’s total revenue for that year.
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