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Politics & Government

Wagner Orders Subpoena of Police Department, County Administration

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner announced Tuesday she intends to subpoena the county administration and police department.

She said it’s the result of the “refusal to cooperate” with her performance audit of the police department, which includes 220 officers and operates on a $29.4 million budget.

The subpoena will call on County Manager William McCain, Chief of Staff Jennifer Liptak and police Superintendent Charles Moffat to report to her office on Feb. 23 to discuss the audit and next steps.

Wagner said in a written statement it is her job to make sure funds are being allocated “appropriately and efficiently” and that as controller, she’s the one who chooses what is going to be audited for the sake of “checks and balances.”

“This administration’s position, that it should be able to pick and choose when and if the controller audits, flies in the face of democracy,” Wagner said. “They are trying to say that what goes on in government is confidential.”

But the county administration disagrees.

Andrew Szefi, Allegheny County solicitor, issued a written statement saying that Wagner does not, in fact, have this authority.

“Neither the Allegheny County Home Rule Charter, the Allegheny County Code, nor any applicable state law, gives the Allegheny County Controller’s office legal authority to conduct a performance audit,” he said, adding that neither Wagner nor anyone in her office have the experience or expertise to asses a police department’s performance.

“The administration has completely and fully cooperated whenever the Controller’s office engages in a financial audit, which is her office’s function,” Szefi said.

He said the administration has had several conversations with Wagner’s legal counsel, asking for additional information on the requested performance audit.

“Unfortunately, there have been no responses to those conversations with her legal counsel, or to the communication sent to her, and no information provided by Ms. Wagner,” Szefi said. “The use of subpoenas is premature, unnecessary and without legal basis, and unfortunately, not surprising.”

Jennifer Liptak, chief of staff to the county executive, agreed in her written statement, calling the subpoena another example what she calls “the political grandstanding of the County Controller.”

“It’s unfortunate that Ms. Wagner has to resort to dramatics rather than appropriate value-added audits of the County’s $1.7 billion in funds,” Liptak said.

She said the administration has been both “professional and courteous” when undergoing “appropriate” financial audits.

“We are here to work and move this government forward,” Liptak said. “And we will continue to do so, regardless of the theatrics from Ms. Wagner and her office.”