Architect on site of deadly Phila. building collapse won’t turn over subpoenaed documents, U.S. Labor Dept. says in court petition

By Jon Campisi | Oct 15, 2013

A man connected to Philadelphia’s deadly June building collapse will be in

federal court this week in response to a petition filed by the United States government seeking to have a judge order the man to turn over certain records relating to the incident.

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez filed a petition on Oct. 7 for summary enforcement of subpoena that had been issued to architect Plato A. Marinakos, Jr., one that the respondent has allegedly refused to answer in full.

The subpoena, issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, seeks the release of documents relevant to OSHA’s investigation of the June 5 building collapse at 22nd and Market Streets in downtown Philadelphia that killed six people and injured more than a dozen.

In their memorandum in support of the petition, M. Patricia Smith and Catherine Oliver Murphy, attorneys who work for the Department of Labor, wrote that the subpoena is a “legitimate exercise of the Secretary’s investigative authority under the OSH Act and should be enforced.”

Marinakos has reportedly said he will be invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in refusing to turn over certain documents, while the government maintains that because Marinakos holds the documents as a custodian for a “collective entity,” he has no Fifth Amendment right to withhold them from investigators.

As part of its investigation of the demolition project worksite, OSHA issued a subpoena seeking eight categories of documents relating to the project, including architectural reports, surveys, blueprints, photographs and correspondence between Marinakos and Griffin Campbell, who was hired as the demolition contractor at the site, according to the government’s petition, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

Campbell’s demolition firm was hired to remove a vacant structure that sat adjacent to a Salvation Army thrift store.

During the demolition process, an unsupported wall crumbled and crashed down onto the roof of the thrift shop.

Marinakos’ attorney, Paul A. Logan, acknowledged service of the subpoena in early July, the government’s petition states.

In his letter, however, Logan indicated that his client would not be producing some of the requested documents based on his Fifth Amendment rights, the petition notes.

A lawyer for the labor secretary wrote back, informing Logan that Perez disagreed with Marinakos’ argument.

In the labor secretary’s view, the petition states, the documents were considered business records of two limited liability companies, Plato A. Marinakos, Jr. Architect, LLC and Plato Studio Architect LLC, and that Marinakos himself held the documents as custodian for those entities.

The record shows that Marinakos ended up turning over to OSHA investigators 116 pages of documents, while at the same time withholding others.

The government contends that the documents are “clearly” business records and not personal records, as they pertain to work performed during the demolition project that ended in tragedy.

In the petition, government lawyers wrote that because OSHA’s investigation involves working conditions as they existed in May and June, any citations for OSHA violations related to the worksite will have to be issued between November and December of this year.

“Therefore, [Marinakos’] refusal to produce relevant documents responsive to the subpoena … is impeding OSHA’s ability to carry out its statutory mission ‘to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions.’”

Late last week, U.S. District Judge Juan R. Sanchez scheduled a hearing on the matter to take place in his 11th floor courtroom on Oct. 16 at 2 p.m.

Sanchez sits in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Numerous lawsuits were filed in the wake of the early June building collapse, but most litigation has been stayed by a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge pending the outcome of a paralleling criminal investigation.

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