PWSA chief Kenney spent $8,300 on conferences, expenses
During about 2 1/2 years as executive director of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, Michael Kenney spent at least $8,300 for travel, conferences and other expenses -- including $104 for tickets to the Antique Auto Museum at Hershey and $12.95 for a Hershey trolley tour during a 2009 conference on fiscal accountability, records showed.
Under PWSA's travel policy, employees may receive $6 for breakfast, $9 for lunch and $20 for dinner daily while traveling on agency business. The policy doesn't require employees to provide receipts to document their meal expenses.
During his tenure, cut short in December when he resigned amid an investigation into his ties to a company that received a line warranty contract from the agency, Mr. Kenney received more than $900 for out-of-town meals for which he provided no receipts.
The agency provided Mr. Kenney's travel records in response to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's right-to-know request.
The PWSA board typically approves the executive director's travel requests, and estimated costs, in advance.
However, there's no indication that anyone approved the expense reimbursement and reporting forms that Mr. Kenney filed after traveling. The line for an authorizing signature is blank on each form.
Mr. Kenney said he couldn't recall details of travel he made for PWSA but followed travel policies, such as collecting per diems without providing receipts, that were in place when he began working there.
Unlike other employees, he said, he had no supervisor to review his expense reimbursement forms after traveling. He said he submitted the forms to the agency's human resources department, which could have reviewed them.
"What they did with them, that I don't know," he said.
City Councilman Patrick Dowd, a PWSA board member, said questions about meal receipts and the expense-review process point to the agency's need for a comprehensive management policy manual. "A dollar is a dollar ... It's public money," he said.
The agency board, which is scheduled to meet today, last month ordered new ethics guidelines because of concerns about Mr. Kenney's personal and professional ties to Universal Line Security LLC, which received the contract for a controversial line warranty program.
In all, expense records showed, Mr. Kenney attended at least nine conferences and workshops while at PWSA.
Records show Mr. Kenney's most expensive travel was the nearly $3,300 he spent on five days for the American Water Works Association conference in San Diego, Calif., in 2009.
Event registration cost $950. Airfare totaled $415. Mr. Kenney spent about $250 on a rental car, about $230 on parking and tolls and about $30 in fuel. Lodging at a Hilton Hotel cost about $1,240. Mr. Kenney also received $30 for breakfasts, $45 in lunches and $100 in dinners, according to the records.
His other travel was to Pennsylvania destinations, including Harrisburg, Hershey and Seven Springs, for events arranged by Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association and other groups.
According to the records, one of his most expensive in-state travels was the $1,250 spent on a four-day PMAA conference in Hershey in September 2009. He spent $21 on parking and tolls, about $36 on fuel and $993 for lodging at the Hershey Lodge. He received $30 in breakfasts, $54 in lunches and $120 in dinners.
Mr. Kenney chaired the conference, which focused on fiscal responsibility and attracted participants from the public and private sectors. The event included an awards banquet one evening; a dinner and tour at the Antique Auto Museum on another; and a trolley tour, listed on the conference agenda as part of the "spouse's program."
The authority paid $335 in advance registration and later added $152.95 to the tab. The changes included $13 for the trolley tour, $55 for a second ticket to the awards banquet and $104 for two tickets to the auto museum dinner and tour, records showed. Mr. Kenney canceled plans to attend a $19 "family breakfast."
He sought the $9 lunch per diem for Sept. 14 even though PWSA paid $26 to buy him a ticket to the conference's "professional luncheon" that day, records showed. He sought $20 dinner per diems for Sept. 14 and Sept. 15 even though PWSA paid $104 for two tickets to the auto museum one night and $110 for two tickets to the awards banquet the other, records showed.
Mr. Kenney said taking the per diem and a paid meal would have been an oversight. However, he said he didn't handle registration details himself and may not have attended a dinner even if he had been registered for it.
He said events such as the museum tour are added to a conference agenda for professional networking.
First Published March 11, 2011 12:00 am