Oversight authority chairman says he's puzzled by mayor's action

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The chairman of an authority overseeing Pittsburgh’s finances said Friday he’s “surprised and confused” that Mayor Bill Peduto called for an investigation and decided to rebid a controversial payroll management project.

Nicholas Varischetti, chairman of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, said his group met as recently as last week with the mayor’s staff about the payroll system and the subject of an investigation or rebidding the project never came up. After years of delays in implementing a joint fiscal management system with Allegheny County to save money and improve services, the ICA voted this week to delay giving the city $1.4 million in gaming money until the project moves forward.

Mr. Peduto cited “gross mismanagement, lack of oversight, and sheer waste of resources” in his call Friday to seek a new contractor for the project and have the existing contract with Denovo investigated by the Office of Municipal Investigations.

City Controller Michael Lamb and County Controller Chelsa Wagner said the system could be operating within weeks if the Peduto administration would give its approval. Mr. Peduto criticized the controllers for not investigating the cost increases.

“I am not willing to put my confidence in a system that has been so poorly managed, and has cost the City millions, and I will not wager our employees’ paychecks and livelihoods on a contractor that has consistently broken commitment after commitment,” the mayor wrote.

In a news release, the mayor said the original contract was for $263,940, but through a series of change orders has grown to more than $1.25 million.

Mr. Varischetti said the mayor was within his rights to investigate the contract, but he noted the ICA hired a forensic auditor this week to investigate possible improper payroll payments through existing contractor Ceridian. That firm, Gleason & Associates, also could have investigated the delays in the fiscal management system, he said.

Ms. Wagner called the mayor’s move “just theatrics right now.” She said the increased costs are a result of delays, some by the administration of former mayor Luke Ravenstahl and some by Mr. Peduto.

Mr. Lamb said he welcomed the investigation but called it “another misguided attempt to further delay a payroll implementation that will save millions for taxpayers.”

Mr. Peduto instructed Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin to oversee a competitive request for proposals to complete the project.

Ed Blazina: eblazina@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1470.

First Published June 20, 2014 12:00 AM

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