PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – He’s a city director and he makes $111,000 dollars a year, but according to absence forms, Santiago Garces has been out of the office — and apparently out of town — on 75 working days in the past 12 months.
And that’s raising the eyebrows of City Council members like Corey O’Connor.
“You found out that it was 75 days, which is surprising. So I think, just what does the city ultimately get? What are our taxpayer dollars going to?” O’Connor asked.
The city declined KDKA’s request for an inventory of Garces travels, but Mayor Peduto says as chief of the city’s Department of Innovation and Performance, Garces is in high demand as a speaker at conferences around the country — selling Pittsburgh.
“He is on the stage presenting Pittsburgh in a way that cities around the world are now looking at Pittsburgh in another way,” Peduto said.
Garces came to Pittsburgh a year ago in December after working in a similar position for South Bend, Indiana mayor and now presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.
Mayor Peduto pushed back on any suspicion Garces has been working on Mayor Pete’s campaign but said Garces is sought after as a leader in computer technology and the innovative ways of delivering services.
And Peduto — who travels quite a bit himself — says like him, Garces is a salesman promoting Pittsburgh and giving the city a competitive advantage in luring high tech companies here.
“Pittsburgh is able to leapfrog over those cities and we’re able to see billions, billions of dollar of investment here,” he said.
Still, O’Connor would like specifics.
“Especially when you’re talking about technology and we’re pumping millions of dollars into it. We want to make sure that that department is running properly. To my knowledge it is. It’s just a little disconcerting to hear that many days a person is not here,” he said.