When the history of the last decade in Pittsburgh is written, the pivotal moment of renewal will be traced to 2003, when the city was declared financially distressed and was put under state stewardship of the Act 47 recovery team, and 2004, when a second oversight board was added -- the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority. Between the two, the city got a double dose of fiscal discipline that has made all the difference.
The oversight is such a success that today some call for it -- prematurely, in our view -- to be lifted. But the agencies' tough-love efforts to lead Pittsburgh back to fiscal responsibility are what made Wednesday's story on the ICA such disturbing reading.
As reported by the Post-Gazette's Moriah Balingit, the five-member ICA will meet in two weeks to vote on whether to extend the contract of its executive director, Henry Sciortino, the sole employee. And, frankly, some tough questions haven't received adequate answers.
Mr. Sciortino is paid a generous salary -- $168,000 a year. His entire compensation, including benefits, for 2011-12, however, cost $305,401 -- a jump of more than $55,000 from the previous year. (He also gets 40 vacation days and 12 personal days.) The ICA's total spending that year was $469,342 -- $84,000 above the state allocation of $385,000. This comes when state funding for the ICA has been falling and for fiscal 2012-13 was only $228,000.
No wonder that ICA board member Ann Dugan is asking whether the authority can afford to keep Mr. Sciortino. More troubling yet, she says she can't judge the board's finances because the executive director doesn't prepare adequate operating statements.
The paucity of fiscal information shouldn't come as a surprise. Mr. Sciortino acknowledged that he uses no accounting software to manage the budget. This is a very strange position for a fiscal watchdog. How can the ICA instill sound financial behavior in the city when its sole employee is presiding over an operation that spends more money than it is allocated and professional practice seems more a seat-of-the-pants affair?
This oversight agency needs some oversight if the ICA is to go on.