Controller examines MWCDC finances
November 21, 2017
City of Pittsburgh controller Michael Lamb said there is no evidence the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) misused funds following the initial phase of his internal audit of the organization’s financial records.
The audit, which is being conducted at the request of the MWCDC board of directors, comes after several community members raised concerns about the organization’s use of funds between 2012 and 2014.
Mr. Lamb attended last week’s MWCDC community forum to present his findings from the first portion of the audit that primarily focused on the use of funding from city-allocated resources.
Mr. Lamb said he reviewed eight contracts the city had with the MWCDC since 2012. His team followed the funding for each contract to ensure it was properly invoiced and the funds were used appropriately.
“Money awarded to the organization was properly invoiced and spent for the reasons it was stated that it would be spent for,” Mr. Lamb said.
A resident in attendance asked about the use of funding for a project initially listed in financial reports as the “Grandview Scenic Byway Park,” but that later had its name changed to “Emerald View Park.”
The resident raised concerns funding for the Grandview Scenic Byway project was inappropriately used for the Emerald View Park project and claimed certain areas along Grandview Avenue, such as Republic Street, did not receive the appropriate funds.
Mr. Lamb said there was not a difference between “Grandview Scenic Byway Park” and “Emerald View Park,” other than the nomenclature used in financial records.
He admitted the financial reports are confusing, but said he believes the project was referred to as multiple names over time. He also said grant providers frequently require recipients to use specific language, which may have led to the name change.
Mr. Lamb added despite the name change, grant money awarded to the Grandview Scenic Byway Park project was only to be used for trail remediation. As a result, Republic Street wouldn’t have received the funding anyway.
The same resident also raised a concern properties received by the MWCDC are being “sold to friends.” The resident referenced a property on Boggs Avenue that was “bought and sold on the same day.”
Mr. Lamb said he is not looking at individual real estate transactions, but if given a list of addresses, he will pull the deed transfer records.
Another resident said the organization’s bylaws state financial records are public, and asked why the monthly treasurer’s report is not distributed at each community forum.
MWCDC board president Michael Grande said the organization’s monthly board meetings are public and anyone who wishes to review financial information can attend. He also added the organization’s last five 990 reports and independent audits are now available to download at http://mwcdc.org/about/public-information.
Mr. Lamb said if the monthly forum becomes a second board meeting with a larger group, it will be bad for the organization. He also said once the full audit is complete, he will be as clear and truthful about what happened between 2012 and 2016.
“I don’t want to say everything’s great,” Mr. Lamb said. “But I will say so far that anything that’s come up isn’t terribly bad.”
In addition to the audit discussion, Mr. Grande made several announcements regarding the organization’s plans for 2018.
A final copy of the new strategic plan can be downloaded on the MWCDC website, mwcdc.org. It details plans for a new board advocacy committee that will form in 2018. That committee will work with government representatives to advocate for more city resources.
There are also plans to hire an executive director in the first half of 2018. Mr. Grande added the MWCDC has not had a staff member for the past year.
The new MWCDC board members were also announced. Current members Darla D’Anna, Alaina Spanoudakis-Davis, and Chris Kail were all re-elected and will serve another term. New board members include Natalie Carl-Gallagher, John Norbut, and Josiah Gilliam.
The MWCDC is also planning several events for 2018 including another “Winter Warmer” event that will take the place of the January community forum. The venue has not yet been decided.
There are also plans for another business owner’s event in March, a farmers’ market in the spring and two block parties over the summer.
There will not a MWCDC community forum event in December.