Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Controller: End Mayor's Special Fund System, Most Used for Travel, Criticized as 'Vestige' of Past

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Controller: End Mayor's Special Fund System, Most Used for Travel, Criticized as 'Vestige' of Past

Article excerpt

A special city fund used to pay mayor's office expenses, primarily for travel, is outdated and should be eliminated, Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb said Tuesday.

"I think it's a vestige of the past," Mr. Lamb said of the 18- year-old mayoral imprest fund, which has served as a petty cash fund, containing up to $10,000. The mayor and members of his office can use "the same travel policy as everybody else," which gives city employees the option of seeking pre-approval and pre-payment of expenses, or to front the costs and get reimbursement later. Mr. Lamb's office audits the imprest fund annually.

Some city council members were troubled by the mayor's imprest fund because its expenditures aren't reviewed by council. Councilman Corey O'Connor said that, at the very least, mayoral travel should be treated the same way that travel for other city employees is treated.

"The mayor might have to go to an important business trip at the blink of an eye," Mr. O'Connor said. "Which is fine. Go on the trip. Get the receipts. Come back. And get reimbursed for it."

Mr. Lamb's comments came after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette detailed mayor's office travel from 2010 through 2012, which was sometimes covered by the imprest fund, sometimes using campaign funds, and sometimes paid by third parties.

"The question is, 'Are city dollars being misused?' " Mr. Lamb asked. "From what we can tell, no, not on this fund."

The mayor's imprest fund is reviewed by his auditors, and its records are available to the public. Auditors match its expenses to receipts and review whether they reflect legitimate city business.

Marissa Doyle, spokeswoman for the mayor, wrote in an email that, "Under this administration, all imprest fund activity to date has remained consistent with the resolution of council that was authorized in March, 1995."

The office is reviewing last year's records. Mr. Lamb said he's already raised questions about a trip that government affairs manager Paul McKrell took in December in which he accompanied the mayor to a forum in Chicago and then to New York City, where the two attended the Pennsylvania Society, an annual political gathering in the Big Apple. …

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