Monday, April 1, 2013


"and even though I love these boots, this fashion's getting old..."

Two days ago, while discovering that City Controller Michael Lamb initiated a broad audit of the Police Bureau only eleven days ago, we also learn that...

Other communications between top controller's office officials and top police brass show that auditors launched a review of the police Premium Pay Account on Feb. 8 by emailing bureau personnel and finance manager Sandra J. Ganster. On Feb. 9, Ms. Ganster brought her concerns about the alleged diversion of funds meant for that account to public safety director Michael Huss, her attorney has said. (P-G, Lord & Balingit)

The Controller's e-mail to Ganster came a couple weeks following the January whistleblowing memo from within the department mentioning Ganster as a recipient of questionably accounted-for funds began circulating.

Mayor's photo gallery
We still don't know what if anything Public Safety Director Huss did with the information provided by Ganster, instigated by Lamb, likely inspired by the whistle blowing officers. And we still don't know for how long Director Huss knew about the diversion of checks into the credit bureau, before or after Dep. Chief Donaldson shut it down in March.

Even still, Lamb has been more interested in making a case that the Finance Dept appears to have been complicit in the continuing advantage-taking.

Were both city Departments at fault? Something in the middle? Where do the Finance Dept. and the Public Safety Dept. intersect?


Controller Lamb also has placed the Housing Authority under a heat lamp:

The audit, though, identified problems with an authority anti-drug effort and with a now-defunct contract under which constable-trained guards patrolled low-income communities, Mr. Lamb said.
"I think they went about providing us with the minimum information they could," Mr. Lamb said. "We'll turn it over to the DA, see if they want to pursue it and see if they want to pursue the information we didn't get using subpoena power." He emphasized that he found no evidence of criminality. (P-G, Rich Lord II)

One cannot mention turning an audit over to prosecutors in the same breath as complaining about a lack of forthcoming information without meaning to make pretty clear one smells something fishy.

The contract with private company Victory Security sounds like a disaster, and even if it wasn't fishy it furnished public housing residents with "separate but equal" protection. No word yet on when and how the Police Bureau will "come to terms" on providing security.

Burgess, Dist. 9
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Housing Authority is on the board of the Housing Authority's nonprofit redevelopment arm, with which the District Attorney has potentially "a number of issues".

At any rate, now there are potential concerns in the area where the Housing Authority intersects with the Police Bureau and with urban redevelopment. Wherever that is.


Finally, Michael Lamb today bows out of the Mayor's race, and endorses Jack Wagner, whom Lamb says does a better job having "great relationships" and who demonstrably has a better relationship with the nexus of public safety unions and redevelopment middlemen who were pillars of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's political support.

Hey, there's another curious intersection!

Is it all the same ball of lint, do you suppose?

Could this entire unwholesome intermingling of public safety bigshots being kowtowed and pandered to beyond propriety, a Finance Dept. conspicuously not noticing fraud and abuse therein, private business taking over irritating or especially lucrative Police Officer security work on sweetheart terms, and a redevelopment mindset at the URA and HACP that has been too inbred, conflicted, political and aggressive in the past -- could that Axis of Muck have been directed to re-brand itself with less problems and distractions under the first candidate with a credible and fecklessly applied dowry willing to take possession of it?

And who would have made that call?

When we talk about addressing waste and abuse, are we really just talking about "Mayor's office reform"?
*-BONUSES: Mayor Peduto would open up the City budgeting process in some radical and concrete ways, and push for free WiFi service and computer literacy programs in targeted areas -- in his 48th and 49th specific proposals for the City, I believe zero of which have been covered by the mainstream media but seem to be getting out there anyway.

Peduto issued a statement in response to Lamb's endorsement of Wagner that "Pittsburgh needs a strong leader who has demonstrated a real commitment to ending waste, fraud and abuse - someone who has revitalized neighborhoods and secured the city’s finances. We have built a new coalition of people who understand what Pittsburgh can be. I’m looking forward to continuing to earn the support of voters all over the city and working to reach this vision together."

The two remaining candidates in the race, State Sen. Jake Wheatley and A.J. Richardson, both African-Americans, have yet to put forward specific ideas or notions that might allow their candidacies to catch fire. Neither has Jack Wagner of course, but they do not enjoy the same privileges.


  1. On the Wagner front their facebook page says at the end of the week they will have a full website going which will make it one month since Ravenstahl withdrew as far as Wagner having no vision or plans online. Not impressed but not surprised. The sheep have lined up already. I, however, will wait to see what his specific policies and plans are and I'll wait to hear from the Peduto camp where the money will come from to fund bigger government.

  2. Rick - It's not just "online". I've been to a candidate forum, saw a half-hour cable TV interview, and been reading the papers religiously. Nothing specific or particularly suggestive from Wagner yet. And you've got to spend money to make / save money... thx for your comment.

  3. "You've got to spend money to make/save money": That doesn't work for me, especially when it comes to the historically inept manner in which the City of Pittsburgh has run it's finances. And Peduto has been a part of that over the last 10 years. Regardless of that each candidate who wants to be taken seriously needs to present their visions, specifics, and where the funds will come from.

  4. He's been a part of that for the last 10 years sort of the same way the turkey has been a guest at Thanksgiving dinner, I suppose.

  5. Bill is a turkey alright, I hope he dosn't drag Natalia down with him. She better start worring about her race and not Bills

  6. I'm worrying about voters who care more for style than substantive records of legislative achievements that have demonstrably made life better for working families in Pittsburgh. If a Turkey has already risked a great deal to stand up for good government and fair campaign finance laws that make my vote count a lot more, and developed carefully thought out plans on where to go from here with ongoing, long term effort and respect for community input from across Pittsburgh, well, I'm gonna overlook a few rumpled feathers.

  7. Nothing legal can make your VOTE count any less or more.

    Donation, different.

    Soapbox of candidates, different.

  8. @Mark

    Pay to play politics greatly diminish the impact of my vote - a greenbuck in some campaign coffers around here has counted far more than my ballot.

  9. No doubt pay to play politics greatly impacts on the quality of one's hope for good government.

    Justice, special treatments, kick-backs, no-bid contracts and so forth are like a cancer in public operations and day-to-day behaviors that cost citizens and taxpayers dearly, here and everywhere.

    Polling, party-dealings, candidate promotions, campaigning, impact on neighborhoods by campaigns, and --- especially the mother of all wipe outs, DEBATES --- are often crooked, especially when hidden.

    But, corporations still don't get to vote. When the curtain is pulled, then a sacred, democratic event happens.

    Each person's vote is equal, given adjustments for party registration, primary / general, electoral college, size of state, county and if winner-take-all is in effect or not. ...

    Pay to play is, I argue, a good government thing, not a vote influence.

    If you are the director of public works and you expect to be out of a job if your candidate does not prevail in the election, you will pay with more skin in the game in the build up to the election. But, the vote of the government worker is equal to that of his neighbor.

    The director of public works does not get five ballots, but only one, like all the others that choose to vote in that election at that polling space.

    This election integrity and vote counting is a cause of great concern for me (and some others). Some worry greatly about the election mechanics, paper ballots, paper trail, hanging chads and the like.

    In the primary of 2001, Bob O'Connor and Tom Murphy each spent about $40 per vote. That's a good night of drinking and eating at some swanky Mt. Washington hangout. But, getting the citizen to vote or just getting meal and drinks are different.

    Hard for me to mix the sanctity of the vote in with all the other noise around the global campaigns.

  10. Money can be used to purchase marketing and public relations. These tools are powerful. Not always in the way we think, but in influencing our field of vision, and the shading. Btw if you're really talking about dept heads and "skin in the game", you also potentially have the power (though not necessarily your inclination) to put your employees skin in the game... heck, even other residents skin in the game, if your own skin comprises "city services" in any respect.

    In my opinion pay to play is a very, very bad thing for government. Not the least of which because it erodes faith, and eroded faith limits possibilities, it limits what government can do in a fit of consciousness and consensus.

    Your comment however Mark is a very excellent one.

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  12. The Peduto camp got back to me and say all their ideas are revenue neutral so that's good enough for me.

  13. Pittsburgh Housing already gets the same services from police as do all residents and visitors to the City.

    You confuse the HACP's desire for special services to include dedicated patrols, access to police reports that they are not entitled to by law and special reports on services provided with "separate but equal".

    The HACP'S is entitled to no more or no less police services than anyone else.