Controller: Pittsburgh parks department shouldn't co-mingle funds

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An audit of a fund used to support local youth sports leagues and other programs found that the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation needs to develop written policies and procedures and do a better job of documenting payments to referees and umpires.

The report by Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb also found that city money has been deposited in an outside bank account maintained by city employees and co-mingled with outside funds, such as donations and league fees.

“City funds should not be held in non-city bank accounts,” Mr. Lamb said in a news release. “As we have seen in the last couple of years, this practice allows for the opportunity of theft and the misappropriation of taxpayer funds.”

Mr. Lamb was referring to the outside account that landed former police Chief Nate Harper in prison after he ordered nearly $71,000 placed in a police credit union account and spent about $32,000 for his own use.

The department agrees with most of the recommendations in Mr. Lamb’s audit, though a letter from director Jim Griffin, included with the report, indicates the department won’t stop mingling the money in the Special Parks Program Imprest Fund.

The fund’s balance is set at $10,000 and “routinely replenished” from the city’s general fund after the controller’s office reviews supporting documentation on how it is spent. From Jan. 1, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2013, $137,234 was spent from the fund.

In an interview, Mr. Griffin said that while the BIG League still gets about $10,000 a year from the Pirates, other supporters have fallen by the wayside, meaning that two city employees largely keep it running. Umpires and referees have to be paid on time and other expenses have to be met, he said.

“It’s not only city money … We probably couldn’t do that if it was a city account,” Mr. Griffin said. “All that money is fully accounted for. … I’m not sure how to decouple BIG from the city, and I haven’t been advised how to do that.”

The answer, Mr. Griffin noted, is a reorganization of the nonprofit program, which has soccer, baseball and softball teams for about 5,000 youths a year.

Deputy Controller Douglas Anderson said his office will follow up with the mayor and city council on the recommendation.

“We shouldn’t have city funds in non-city bank accounts,” he said.

Robert Zullo: or 412-263-3909. Twitter: @rczullo.

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