Antar cooperated with prosecutors and gave evidence against his cousin and uncle, the firm’s co-founders, escaping prison time himself though coming away with three felony convictions. He now leads seminars on white-collar crime for law enforcement agencies, professional groups, businesses and universities.
That’s how Antar found himself in the Controller’s Office in September, telling his story to employees and giving them tips for spotting fraud. (In a note of irony, one of Antar’s warnings to auditors is to not get too close to the people they’re auditing so as to not compromise their judgment. Butkovitz should take note—he’s been criticized for using audits as a political stick and carrot to attack his enemies and protect his friends.) Kaplan, while he thought the course content excellent, took issue with the choice of presenter because he had a personal history with scammers—he was once ripped off by a disreputable diamond appraisal on a purchase of an engagement ring.
“As someone who was once the victim of a fraud and who lost thousands of dollars as a result of it, I found Mr. Antar’s presentation to be morally and ethically reprehensible,” Kaplan says. He made his feelings known on an anonymous survey passed out at the end of the course, writing, “Why would the City of Philadelphia hire a criminal PIECE OF SHIT to teach us a course? . . . He doesn’t even deserve to be hired to clean toilets.”
Kaplan’s anonymity was short-lived. He mentioned his displeasure with Antar in an aside to a supervisor following the presentation, but didn’t spare another thought about the matter until Oct. 24, when he was called into a disciplinary hearing and asked whether he was the author of the anonymous survey containing the dreaded s-word. “I reacted with integrity by telling the truth,” Kaplan says. He apologized and said it wouldn’t happen again, only to be unexpectedly and abruptly fired on Dec. 9, 11 days before his probationary period ended and he would have gained civil-service protections. Washing his mouth out with soap, it seems, wouldn’t have been sufficient.
“Your reaction [on the anonymous survey] suggests that when you dislike something or someone you may handle the situation in a less than professional manner,” his termination paper read, signed by Post Audit Deputy City Controller Gerald Micciulla (the office declined comment on Kaplan’s saga).
Antar was surprised to hear about Kaplan’s termination. “It doesn’t bother me that he said that,” the former white-collar criminal says. “He has every right to voice his opinion of me. It was wrong for the City of Philadelphia to fire him for what he said about me.”
The last word on Kaplan’s rejection notice reads, “The vulgar language expressed by you in the attachment, which you acknowledge as having written, places you at high risk for embarrassing the Controller’s Office, discrediting the professionalism of the office, and causing unwanted negative publicity.”
The office is doing a fine job in those departments on its own.
Incest has long been taboo among human societies for its propensity to produce deformed offspring. Among political circles in Philadelphia, however, incest is a cherished, closely guarded tradition, which might go a long way toward explaining our deformed government. Like our own little Gabriel García Márquez novel, everyone’s in bed together, while our mess of a city is left to be carried away by ants.
First Person Arts Podcast: Proud Mom