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County Controller Threatens to Take Four Authorities to Court

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner Wednesday threatened to take four county agencies to court for refusing to comply with her requests and delaying audits launched by her office.

Wagner wants to examine the contracting processes used by the Allegheny County Airport Authority, Port Authority of Allegheny County and the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (Alcosan), as well as the distribution of free tickets by the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA).

According to Wagner, the Airport Authority and the SEA were sent letters regarding the audits in October, while Alsocan and the Port Authority were contacted earlier this month.

Wagner said the agencies have until Monday to cooperate with the audits or legal action will be taken.

“I am very confident that, if this does go to court, that transparency will be received, but we’re urging them to cooperate because these delays and this opposition doesn’t benefit anyone,” she said.

According to Wagner, leaders at the Airport Authority and the SEA claim their authorities are not subject to audits by the controller’s office. Alcosan sought a delay, but did not provide the minimum information requested to postpone the start day. The Port Authority said it is not a county authority and is not required to comply.

“The controller has always audited these authorities,” Wagner said. “But, it’s also set forth in state law and even in county law that very specifically says, in different ways and different instances with the authorities, that the controller should be able to audit.”

The controller is also calling on county Executive Rich Fitzgerald, along with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, to push the agencies toward cooperation, but county spokeswoman Amie Downs said Fitzgerald won’t be getting involved.

“This is an issue between the authorities and the controller,” she said. “And, while we are not part of that, we agree with the authorities’ position and will be supporting them in that.”

None of the authorities could be immediately reached for comment.

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."