Swann Memorial Fountain at Logan Circle on the Ben Franklin Parkway (Mark Henninger/Imagic Digital)

Almost a decade after a series of financial scandals sullied its name, the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia has rebranded as the Philadelphia City Fund. 

The change, announced Wednesday and reflected in the organization’s new website, was made to better represent the fund’s mission and distance itself from past indiscretions, executive director Jody Greenblatt said.

Greenblatt called the new name “the last and final step of entering into a new phase.”

The fund is an independent nonprofit that works for and with the city, connecting private philanthropy to programs within the city intended to benefit all Philadelphians. It provides $22 million each year to city programs, Greenblatt said.

She took over leadership of the fund in 2019 — the same year former city representative Desiree Peterkin Bell pleaded guilty to stealing and misusing nearly $250,000. Greenblatt brought experience as the Philly School District’s deputy chief for climate and safety, in the city’s Law Department, and with the First Judicial District.

As the fiscal sponsor for the city, the fund helps build public-private partnerships that direct financial support to programs and initiatives that exist outside the scope of the city budget, Greenblatt said. Among the recently supported programs:

The name change to City Fund was needed after years of “disturbing behavior” at the Mayor’s Fund, said Pat Christmas, chief policy officer at the good government group Committee of Seventy.

“It does seem clear to us that the structural reforms and the personnel turnover they needed to turn the page from prior years has happened,” Christmas told Thetelegraphfield.

Including sharing financial information with the public, the rebrand helps put the organization on “solid ground,” he said.

Now, no one who runs the fund is a city employee

The fund has been called various things over its 44-year history, but the scandals during the Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration were big dings on its reputation.

Peterkin Bell, a close Nutter associate, used its coffers as a “slush fund” when she was chair, according to former City Controller Alan Butkovitz — who Peterkin Bell subsequently sued for defamation. After it was discovered she’d used the fund’s credit cards to pay for Uber rides, hotel stays, expensive meals, and clothing, she was ultimately sentenced to 90 days of house arrest, a year of probation, and restitution.

Melanie Johnson, Peterkin Bell’s predecessor as city representative under Nutter, also came under scrutiny for questionable spending practices during her time overseeing the fund.

In the wake of those scandals, the fund’s board, which had been composed entirely of city employees, was revamped. It now comprises five independent board members and four who have been appointed — one each from the Mayor’s Office, the finance director’s office, the Managing Director’s Office and City Council. The board is currently chaired by Richard Levins, vice president and deputy general counsel at Independence Blue Cross, and vice chaired by Marlene Olshan, co-founder of Momentum Consulting Group.

The fund also now has an independent accountant and posts its financial audits and Form 990 online each year to give the public information about its finances. None of the fund’s four full-time employees, including Greenblatt, are city employees.

“We believe we have all the safeguards needed in place and with clean audits we feel very comfortable in how we’re operating,” Greenblatt said.

The fund is looking for ways to assess the impact of the money it provides to programs around the city, Greenblatt said, but the private entities whose grants and contributions flow through the fund are primarily responsible for measuring their money’s impact.

“It’s a goal of ours to assess not only the dollar impact but also our impact in being able to receive those dollars on behalf of the city,” Greenblatt said.

The lack of accountability and transparency in the fund’s past opened the door to impropriety, Christmas said, resulting in its officials using the fund’s money for personal reasons. The rebranding is both an acknowledgment of those failures and a commitment to do better.

“This is an opportunity,” Greenblatt said, “to reestablish ourselves with the different constituencies we serve.”