PITTSBURGH, PA (November 17, 2015) The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records has determined that the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority is required to produce more than a dozen sets of information to the City of Pittsburgh, including several sets of financial materials, contract information, emails and other communications.
The City filed a Right To Know request in July with the ICA seeking 27 sets of information and the authority fully or partially denied all but one of them. The City appealed the rejection of 20 sets of documents to the Office of Open Records (OOR), and the office ruled November 12 that the City was due 15 document sets (13 of them in full, and two in part).
The ICA had argued that many of the document requests -- such as those seeking “all electronic and written communications” on matters such as City budget approvals, the withholding of gaming funds and new City payroll system -- were exempt from disclosure under the Right To Know Law (RTKL). The OOR rejected that claim, as well as the ICA’s argument that the records are protected by attorney-client privilege.
The OOR’s determination also says the ICA’s Executive Director Henry Sciortino failed to establish that financial audits the City requested of “bank statements, statements of earned interest and other documents” on the receipt and disbursement of gaming funds do not exist.
“Here, the Authority’s unsworn statement may not be relied upon as competent evidence to withhold records under the RTKL. . . Because Mr. Sciortino’s statement does not address the existence or non-existence of the above-mentioned audits, the Authority has failed to prove these audits do not exist within its possession, custody, or control,” the OOR determined.
A copy of the Office of Open Records determination is here.
Similarly, auditors for Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale reported last week that they could not obtain a full list of contracts or audits from the ICA, and that the fiscal oversight body had to improve its transparency and record-keeping.
“Based on the limited information we were provided for review, our review team concluded that the ICA must be more thorough and diligent in its administrative responsibilities as a state agency, as well as being more meticulous in its record-keeping and retention of government documents that should remain available throughout the life of the statute-of-limitations pertinent to those documents,” the Auditor General’s report said.
The Auditor General’s report further recommended that the ICA “Work with the City to negotiate with the General Assembly and the Governor to develop an appropriate timeline for the elimination of the ICA in a way that will ensure Gaming revenue is used to reduce Pittsburgh’s sizable pension liability and set the path for continued financial progress.”
Mayor William Peduto is traveling to Harrisburg tomorrow to meet with state leaders on that recommendation.
In the meantime the City’s lawsuit against the ICA, and its public records request for documents, is ongoing.
“Through this entire process the City has had one goal, and that has been ensuring that our taxpayers receive nearly $20 million in gaming funds owed to them under law. I will use every tool at my disposal to get taxpayers the money they are owed -- past-due -- to support critical City services,” Mayor Peduto said.
The City is owed $10 million per year for hosting a casino on the North Shore but none has been issued by the ICA since the first quarter of 2014 when Mayor Peduto took office.
City Finance Director Paul Leger issued the ICA a letter last week listing all the gaming funds due to the City the last seven financial quarters. At the end of the third quarter of 2015 on Oct. 31, those monies owed totaled $14,181,884.82.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
City of Pittsburgh
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