Pittsburgh Council Questions City's Cash Management

Mar 14, 2013

As the FBI continues its investigation of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau's handling of finances, the City Council is exploring whether there should be an overhaul of cash management policies citywide.

The FBI is looking into the depositing of checks meant for the police bureau into an unauthorized account at the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union.  Federal agents took records from the credit union and police finance and special events offices.

Council President Darlene Harris, who is also a candidate for mayor, said that nearly every department in the city lacks a cash management policy with the exception of the city finance office which handles payments for taxes and permitting fees.  Harris has introduced two bills intended to improve cash management.  One measure would direct the city controller's office to study policies in departments that receive outside income.  A second bill authorizes the city to pay an outside firm up to $20,000 to study the controller's findings and recommend new policies.

Both measures received preliminary approval Wednesday and come up for a final vote March 19.

Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak sees the need for a consultant and contends there is a gap in accounting systems.  Rudiak said she frequently visits recreation centers in the city and related to here fellow coincilmembers conversations with people behind the desk at those rec centers.  "Look, if we don't sell pop and chips and candy, they're (center visitors) going right up the street two blocks to Rite Aid or the corner store and get the stuff anyway, so we might as well sell it here so it (the money) can actually stay in the building," Rudiak recalled.

She added that workers at a few city centers also buy refreshments at Wal-Mart or Sam's Club on their own and resell it.  Rudiak said council members need "to ask ourselves if that's how we want it to be," but also take into account the reality of how the city works.

"If we're going to have little mini concessions stands at our community centers and our ice skating rink, and if we're going to have pop machines at our firehouses, what's the reality in managing that cash," asked Rudiak.  "I think that sticking our necks in the sand and saying 'well this isn't happening, we're going to put a blind eye to it,' is a recipe for disaster."