Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner today addressed the Sports and Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County’s (SEA) Board at its monthly meeting, urging members to direct staff to cooperate with her office’s audit of ticket distribution and encouraged them to provide the information that the taxpayers deserve. Today’s attempt comes after nearly two months of resistance from the SEA.
“The Controller’s Office has audited the SEA in the past, so it is unclear why the SEA and the County Administration would now want to deviate from that practice,” Wagner said. “This audit is plainly in the interest of public transparency; the Controller’s Office has the legal authority to do it, there is legal precedent and it is common sense. The SEA and the Administration’s decision to challenge the audit and fail to cooperate defies past practice and reason, and, frankly, is troubling.”
In a meeting on November 26, 2014, Wagner met with the SEA Board and Mary Conturo, Executive Director of the SEA, to discuss the audit. At that time, all parties were in agreement to Wagner’s requests. Despite the cooperation, both the SEA and County Administration notified the Controller’s Office, via letter on December 3, that it would not be cooperating, as previously indicated.
In return, Wagner narrowed the number of her requests from 11 to one, asking only for details of ticket distribution, including who the tickets were distributed to, the ticket number, who actually used the ticket, company names or affiliations of the individuals who used the event tickets, price value of tickets and business purpose of the tickets. Yesterday, the Controller’s Office received a letter from the SEA’s attorney that it would treat the Controller’s request as a Right to Know request, which could take up to 30 days to provide response. Wagner believes that, as the County’s elected chief fiscal officer and auditor, her office is entitled to access more information than is provided to the media.
At today’s meeting, Wagner again asked for cooperation with her office’s legal right to review, analyze and make publicly known any and all documents related to the use of Allegheny County taxpayer dollars. Wagner noted her office’s power to subpoena the information, withhold funds and expand the scope of the audit, but stressed that it is in the best interest of the taxpayers, the SEA and the County to proceed in a cooperative fashion.
“They can litigate the legality, but that will only cost more money for everyone. There’s a clearer way for us to proceed in a cooperative fashion,” Wagner said.