PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Over the past 12 months, someone from the city purchased more than $10,000 of weed whackers and chainsaws from the Jefferson Hills Lawn and Equipment using city purchase orders.
But Jefferson Hills never got their money, so last week when public works employees came to pick up some lawnmowers, owner Tom Anton refused to hand them over.
Turns out, City Controller Michael Lamb had refused to pay the invoices because his office couldn’t locate any chainsaws or weed whackers within the city and started asking questions.
“And our questions about where are the goods led to this investigation that you’re doing right now,” Lamb told KDKA.
KDKA-TV found that the chainsaws were purchased by Matt Hogue, an aide to City Councilman Bruce Kraus. Hogue says the controller’s office couldn’t locate the equipment because it’s been stolen.
“Came in, went to put a suit jacket downstairs, noticed that the things were missing,” he said.
Hogue says he bought and then stowed the chainsaws in his basement in the West End. When he went out for run one evening last month, he returned to find them gone.
“I’m sorry things got taken,” he said.
But sorry may not be good enough.
“There’s no way in the world this should have ever happened,” Lamb said.
The money was supposed to come from a discontinued program of the 1990s called Neighborhood Needs.
Lamb says the money should have been returned to the general fund years ago and that any expenditure requires full council approval.
“I just thought that was the system,” Hogue said. “Maybe we just didn’t know the rules completely.”
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan asked Hogue if the purchase was even approved by Councilman Kraus.
Sheehan: “… So you were acting on your own then?”
Sheehan: “Is that ok with your boss?”
Hogue: “Probably not.”
Councilman Kraus did not return phone calls.
But questions remain about how this equipment was purchased and how it went missing and higher ups in the city mean to find answers.