Today, County Controller’s Office’s attorneys, the County Solicitor and outside counsel representing the County Police Department attended a scheduled status conference with President Judge Jeffrey Manning.
Upon the conclusion of the conference, Judge Manning issued an Order directing the Controller’s Office to file a declaratory judgment action within 30 days, similar to the one filed last week against the Airport Authority, Port Authority, Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, and Sports and Exhibition Authority. Judge Manning further recused himself and assigned Judge Joseph M. James, Senior Judge and President Judge Emeritus to preside over the matters involving the four authorities and the County Police.
“I am pleased with the outcome of today’s hearing, as it moves our case forward and, thus, moves forward the cause of protecting taxpayers and ensuring that County government is transparent and accountable,” Wagner said. “I remain confident that each of these legal actions will result in greater protections for the taxpayers of Allegheny County.”
Controller Wagner is seeking an audit of the Police Department’s operations and application of resources. Until recently, no County department has ever challenged the County Controller’s authority to audit it. Additionally, records show that under the prior Controller, Mark Flaherty, reviews were conducted that were called “performance audits,” but because they were not conducted in accordance to Government Auditing Standards, they were not bona fide audits. Improvements made to the Controller’s Office under Wagner, which include investment in training and updated policies and procedures, empower the Controller’s Office to now perform all such audits in accordance to the professional standards. Wagner noted that, “Performance audits will bring County government out of the dark ages and align the County with the highest standards in government auditing.” She added that performance audits have been done widely for many years by the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s office and are also done by the Philadelphia Controller’s office. “Why would our County want to stand in the way of progress? If there is nothing to hide, we should move forward with the audits.”
Wagner has been working for months to initiate audits of the Airport Authority, Port Authority, Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, and the Sports and Exhibition Authority, and last week filed a lawsuit against the four Authorities. Wagner will be filing a similar lawsuit against the County Police within 30 days.
The Police Department, which includes 220 officers and operates with a $29.4 million budget, is on the brink of a major personnel change as park police officers are slated to be replaced with park rangers. Additionally, many employee records in the Police Department remain paper-based. As such, the Controller intends to review internal processes and application of resources.