KDKA Investigates: Great Race ‘Slush Fund’ Expenditures Questioned

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s a Pittsburgh tradition coming up on its 40th year, but now there are questions about just how hundreds of thousands of dollars in registration fees and donations to the Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race have been spent.

KDKA has learned that for the past few years, the city Parks and Recreation Department made large, unauthorized expenditures from what some within the Peduto administration are now calling a “slush fund,” without any checks and balances.

Invoices obtained by KDKA show that close to $10,000 was spent at local restaurants to cater three separate park employee appreciation picnics.

Parks spent $2,700 for catering at The Porch restaurant in Schenley Plaza, as well as $3,700 and $3,900 for two picnics catered by Bistro To Go on the North Side.

City policy prohibits employee picnics unless the employees or their bosses foot the bill.

“You can’t do that. It’s not legal. It’s not valid. There has to be an actually spending authorization from the city,” said City Controller Michael Lamb

Documents show that tens of thousands of dollars went to vendors without contracts or following bidding procedures. Lamb says the none of these payments were authorized by the mayor, approved by City Council, or came to his office for review.

“If that didn’t happen, that’s a problem,” he said.

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Parks Director Jim Griffin declined to comment, but the city has now closed the account, taken management of the event away from Parks, and referred the matter to its Office of Municipal Investigations.

City investigators are also looking at whether gift cards donated to the race by Eat ‘n Park for participant prizes were given to Parks Department employees instead.

On the last Sunday in September, more than 14,000 runners will cross the Great Race finish line in Point State Park, and with these moves, the Peduto Administration wants to have more control over how their money will be spent and on what.

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