(Pittsburgh) Nov. 30, 2015 Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner today announced that
she will not appeal a recent Court decision which found that the ability to audit County-related authorities
is reserved by law to state officials.
“The judge’s decision reinforces that state law governing these authorities is severely deficient when it comes to
oversight of the large amounts of public money they spend,” Wagner said. “For instance, the office of the
Attorney General–which does not have an auditing department or employ auditors–having financial oversight of
authorities simply does not make sense. I will be calling on state lawmakers to change these laws in order to
ensure that the more than $1 billion in spending by County-related authorities
each year receives meaningful oversight.”
“I am also continuing to call on the leadership of these authorities–whose boards include
numerous elected officials–to be responsive to rightful public concerns about their spending and voluntarily
open their doors to scrutiny. Past County Controllers have been invited by some of these very same authorities
to perform audits, and advances I have led over four years in office mean we are better prepared than ever to
take on this task at no additional cost to the taxpayers. Oversight by the elected Controller can bring a measure
of public confidence in these bodies which is now severely lacking,” Wagner continued.
“Perhaps an agency like ALCOSAN would not have to spend half a million dollars on a public relations campaign
to justify its spending if County residents only knew that someone was watching them,” she said. “My team of
professional, certified auditors has uncovered savings and efficiencies in County government again and again.
I am beyond certain that my office would find cost savings within the authorities as well.”
“There are questions that must be answered: how historic increases in water and sewer fees are being used by
ALCOSAN; who receives free tickets to sporting events and concerts from the Sports and Exhibition Authority,
and why; why the Airport Authority charges gate fees comparable to the busiest airports in the country;
and many other matters of real public concern. The authorities are a layer of government which spends
as much as County government itself yet operates in secrecy. This has to change,” Wagner said.
Wagner said that her office will pursue other avenues such as Right-to-Know requests under
Pennsylvania’s Open Records law to shed new light on spending by authorities.
The ruling issued November 6 by Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Senior Judge Joseph M. James also
affirmed the Controller’s ability to conduct performance audits of County departments. Wagner said that her
performance audit of the County Police, which the County sued to block, would commence soon,
with others to follow.
Lou Takacs, Communications Specialist