Great Race Audit Reveals Off-Book Account, Money Spent On Employee Picnics

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A new audit of the city’s Great Race has turned up money unaccounted for and a bank account that wasn’t properly maintained.

KDKA reported back in May that there were concerns that hundreds of thousands of dollars in Great Race registration fees and donations were deposited in a non-city account without checks or balances.

After releasing an audit of the account Thursday, City Controller Michael Lamb says he still can’t get over it.

“How the Parks Department continued to operate with this idea that they could still have an off-book bank account is just shocking to me,” he said. “It’s beyond belief.”

In May, KDKA conducted an investigation and found improper expenditures that were never authorized, and 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.

“This is stuff that shouldn’t have happened,” Lamb said. “We should have known where that money was, how it was being spent and why.”

Lamb found that $15,000 from the account was spent on gift cards, which the Parks Department says were given as prizes to race winners, but there is no record of that.

“Were they prizes to the winners of the race? Were they given to volunteers?” Lamb said. “We don’t know. We don’t know the answer to that question, and that’s the part of the problem. When you don’t have these kind of checks in the system, you don’t know what these expenditures are for.”

Though Lamb does not suspect theft, he noted that a similar account led to the indictment and conviction of former Police Chief Nate Harper.

“We had a situation in the police department a couple years ago where an account was off book,” Lamb said. “People went to jail. This is a serious thing. This was a problem.”

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