City Controller Urges Tighter Controls On Spending For Baseball Umpires

Jan 29, 2020

Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb told reporters Tuesday that the city should tighten up its handling of a program to hire baseball umpires for city youth baseball games. 

According to an audit Lamb released Tuesday afternoon, the city last year had an informal agreement with Pittsburgh Sports Officials to assign referees to the games. Using a taxpayer-financed "imprest fund" -- an account created to handle small-dollar expenditures -- the group would pay umpires for their work, rather than having the city contract with them individually. 

"It may have gotten too much for the Parks Department to be responsible" for hiring referees and umpires themselves, Lamb said. "So they brought umpires in themselves and they agreed to cover these games. ...But the way they've done this was wrong."

PSO received more than $30,000 from the fund, which also received money from the Pirates Foundation. Lamb showed that a few personal transactions were made from the account, though he said there was no sign of wrongdoing by anyone. 

"I'm not going to suggest to you that this raises to the level of something we'll report to the District Attorney's office because we do think it's more of a record-keeping problem," Lamb said.  "We don't believe it's a theft, but we don't know that for sure."

Lamb said there was still $1,060 to pay referees that hadn't been spent. That money needed to be disposed of, he said.
"What we've said to the Parks Department and what we're going to hold them to is, 'You've got to clean this up before we replenish or allow any more money into that Imprest Fund," he said.

Lamb also urged the city to enter into a formal contract with PSO. Not having one, he said, means the city could not pursue them civilly if there is problem.  In their response to the audit, city officials said they agreed with its findings and had taken steps to address the concerns. 

"This is the first year this has happened, so it's good that we caught it early," Lamb said. "This is something that is outside the normal, something that they need to address."