PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner is holding up tax money owed to VisitPittsburgh, the region’s tourist promotion agency.

Wagner questions VisitPittsburgh’s donation to Mayor Bill Peduto’s fund helping city employees who appeared on the CBS show “Undercover Boss.”

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When Peduto appeared on “Undercover Boss,” he handed out $155,000 to city employees.

”You’re going to be getting a check — $20,000,” the mayor told one employee on the show.

“My friends want to invest $20,000,” he told another.

While most of the money was raised through private sources, Wagner is holding up $682,000 in tax money owed to VisitPittsburgh through the hotel tax because VisitPittsburgh has pledged at least $25,000 to Peduto’s effort.

“We decided we wanted to hold that money until we got clarification on the actions that VisitPittsburgh has taken or will be taking with respect to using that taxpayer money for the mayor’s appearance on ‘Undercover Boss,’” said Wagner when questioned by KDKA political editor Jon Delano.

The action brought an immediate response from Mayor Peduto’s chief of staff Kevin Acklin.

“It’s unfortunate that we have one politician trying to get in the way and start a circus side show for political purposes,” said Acklin.

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Acklin questioned Wagner’s authority to stop payment.

“This is direct funding that comes from the state. It is not an invoice payment,” he said.

VisitPittsburgh’s CEO Craig Davis says the national exposure Pittsburgh got through “Undercover Boss” with its 9 million viewers far exceeded the investment made by the donation.

“It was purely a business decision based on the exposure the city would receive,” said Davis. “The marketing value of that is priceless, and I would do it again.”

Peduto has asked VisitPittsburgh for an additional $25,000 which the board will review in February.

“It would be best for VisitPittsburgh not to pursue additional taxpayer dollars,” warned Wagner.

The controller says she plans to meet with VisitPittsburgh officials and hopes to work things out shortly.

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