(Pittsburgh) Nov. 9, 2015 In a press conference this morning, Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner said
that her office plans new steps toward increasing the transparency of local public authorities that spend more
than $1 billion each year without meaningful oversight.
In a ruling released last week, Allegheny County Common Pleas Senior Judge Joseph M. James ruled that while
Wagner’s team of certified auditors can conduct performance audits of County departments, state law prescribes
other means for oversight of authorities including the Airport Authority, Port Authority, Allegheny County Sanitary
Authority (ALCOSAN), and Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA).
Wagner said that her office is reviewing the Judge’s ruling and would decide whether to file an appeal within the
next two weeks, but will take action to more closely examine the authorities through other means.
“If you look at modern day government, this is the layer of government that is beyond public view and inspection.
It is where corruption begins and ends. This is where the insider’s inside game is played,” Wagner said.
“No public official can talk about opening the doors of city hall or county government while simultaneously
slamming them shut where most of our public money is spent.”
“At this point we are now able to proceed via other avenues, because we have been in a state of limbo in many
senses since this went to Court in February,” Wagner said of her efforts to more closely examine the authorities.
- Wagner–who served three terms in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives–plans to meet with
legislators and develop draft legislation that would provide greater oversight of the authorities.
- Currently, state law grants financial oversight of three of the authorities in question to the
Pennsylvania Attorney General, an office which does not have an auditing department. The Court
ruling also leaves unresolved the Controller’s ability to examine the use of County taxpayer money
which is collected and paid by the County to the authorities, for instance the approximately $30 million
annually provided to the Port Authority through the drink and car rental taxes.
- Wagner said she will also convene a citizens’ task force on oversight of the authorities which will utilize
avenues such as Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know law to bring authority operations to light.
“There is nobody as a practical matter that is looking after this money,” Wagner said. “The transparency of
authorities is the preeminent good government issue of our day. That is why I am going to continue to work to
achieve transparency at these large, taxpayer funded entities.
Lou Takacs, Communications Specialist