15 months ago, allegations of "reckless" and "wasteful" spending at the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP) were brought to the attention of KDKA news by a former employee.
Mayor Ravenstahl at the time called some of the documented spending "questionable at best", expressing concern but pointedly not "jumping to any conclusions". After immediately demanding an internal review of HACP spending, Ravenstahl later upped the ante by asking for a formal audit by the City Controller.
That audit was completed at least two months ago, says Controller Michael Lamb -- but it has yet to be released to the public.
"I'm not sure why that's being held up," said Lamb. "You'd have to ask the Reverend about that."
Rev. Ricky Burgess, a Pittsburgh City Councilman, chairs the city Housing Authority. He was appointed by Mayor Ravenstahl to replace ousted URA director Patrick Ford in that role months after the allegations of HACP misspending surfaced and instigated reviews.
"It should be out in one day, two days at the latest," Burgess told the Comet in response to inquiries. "In fact, [the Controller's office] should have that back by now."
All Controller's office audits must ultimately be made public -- but all government bodies which are audited are given the opportunity to "respond" to the findings before they are released.
Annabelle Kinney, an attorney at the Controller's office, says that there is no legal deadline for submitting responses, but the eleven weeks it has so far taken HACP verges on "ridiculous".
"It's important that audits be timely," said Kinney. "The information needs to be relevant."
Burgess referred the work of considering the Housing Authority's response to a special internal audit committee, which resulted in part of the delay.
"I can't answer that," Burgess said regarding concerns over the time lag. "All I can say is, I'm new at this, and I've made sure I've done my due diligence."
The Housing Authority is likely once again to fall under the microscope for its expenditures. An estimated $28 million in federal stimulus money is coming its way, a sum expected to dwarf other city authorities and departments. Approximately $4.54 million of that has already been dispersed by its board on construction-related contracts, including widening entryways and easing accessibility.
Meanwhile, new legislation authored by Councilman Bill Peduto would set up a local stimulus oversight panel, charged with ensuring that all of Pittsburgh's governmental instruments are spending federal public dollars wisely.
"I have no confidence that the Housing Authority is going to spend that money wisely," says Matt Hogue, the former HACP employee who originally brought forward the allegations of wasteful spending -- including reports of $2000 laptop computers, monogrammed umbrellas and windbreakers, and costly live performances for charity events. "I guess you could say I have no confidence in the leaders at 200 Ross St."
"It's long, long overdue," Hogue said of the audit.