Ethics commission finds no wrongdoing in Rich Fitzgerald's use of county SUV, credit card
March 1, 2016 2:31 PM
A state ethics commission found that Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald did not violate the state Ethics Act in his use of a Jeep Grand Cherokee and credit card.
By Lexi Belculfine / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The state Ethics Commission said Tuesday that County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s use of a county-issued vehicle and credit card did not violate the Ethics Act.
"It's good news, I guess, but it's not anything I wasn't expecting. We thought all along there was nothing there," Mr. Fitzgerald said.
The commission’s final adjudication found that Mr. Fitzgerald did not misuse a 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee to travel to political events or county resources, equipment or personnel, such as police escorts to political events, as both were minimal or used for county business.
The commission also said he did not use a county-issued credit card intended for fuel purchases for non-county purposes or omit travel from mileage logs, “as the records reflect that Fitzgerald played no role in the completion of mileage logs.” Omitting mileage could lead to a monetary benefit by avoiding the need to pay taxes on private, non-business mileage, the commission noted.
Commission executive director Robert Caruso would not identify the complainant, but said the alleged misuse was brought before the commission in November 2014.
County Controller Chelsa Wagner said at a press conference Nov. 6, 2014, that Mr. Fitzgerald cost taxpayers thousands of dollars by driving his county vehicle for political and personal use. She accused him of not logging details of more than 19,000 miles he drove and not reimbursing the county for personal mileage.
A week later, Mr. Fitzgerald gave up the SUV and wrote a check for $42,737.52 to the county for every mile he had driven in the Grand Cherokee since 2012.
Since then, he's driven a personal vehicle. "It's easier that way," he said Tuesday.
Ms. Wagner said in a statement: “I remain pleased that the county was reimbursed by Mr. Fitzgerald for the use in question. I am also pleased that our audit resulted in significant cost savings and stronger policies in an area that is ripe for abuse. That is what the taxpayers expect and that is the outcome my office’s actions achieved.”
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