Wagner to Pursue Subpoenas of County Officials Over Police Audit

Feb 23, 2015

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner will pursue enforcement of three subpoenas against county officials who did not attend a meeting Monday morning that would have officially begun an audit of the county Police Department.

Wagner said her office issued the subpoenas earlier this month against County Manager William McKain, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s Chief of Staff Jennifer Liptak, and County Police Superintendent Charles Moffat. However, last week, County Solicitor Andrew Szefi filed a court motion to suppress the subpoenas and alerted Wagner that McKain, Liptak, and Moffat would not attend the meeting.

Szefi and other county officials question Wagner’s authority to conduct a “performance audit,” which Wagner says is more thorough than the “financial statement” audits the controller’s office has performed in the past.

“These are the kinds of audits that we should be doing to really move our county out of the dark ages in terms of transparency,” Wagner said.

Instead of questioning the subpoenaed officials, Wagner read on to the record the absences of the three and announced her intention to enforce the subpoenas in court.

Wagner calls performance audits “the gold standard” of government auditing, and says she has been training and certifying her staff for three years to conduct them. She cited the Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which outlines three types of government audits: financial statement audits, attestation engagements, and performance audits. Wagner said past Allegheny County controllers have only performed financial audits, “which are really just akin to making sure that your bank statement matches your checkbook,” but that her office is now certified to conduct all three.

According to Wagner, using subpoenas to mandate attendance at an audit entrance meeting is unprecedented in the county.

“We do see that this is extreme,” Wagner said. “We don’t take it lightly. But it’s in response to very extreme and unprecedented attempts to keep government records closed.”

Liptak responded that county administration meets regularly with the County Council, which she calls “the appropriate entity to review the performance of departments.”

According to Wagner, using subpoenas to mandate attendance at an audit entrance meeting is unprecedented in the county.

“We do see that this is extreme,” Wagner said. “We don’t take it lightly. But it’s in response to very extreme and unprecedented attempts to keep government records closed.”

In a statement, Liptak said that Wagner’s role is limited to financial statement reviews.

“Like the rest of the elected office holders in this County, she has duties and functions that she is responsible for performing,” Liptak said. “Those do not include performance audits. If her office has invested in training to perform such audits, it is an unfortunate misuse of taxpayer dollars as she does not have the authority to do so.”

According to Wagener, performance audits are commonly performed by the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s office and by other county controllers in the commonwealth.