Pittsburgh City Council unanimously voted on Wednesday to give preliminary approval to a bill that would terminate a $10,000 "imprest fund" used by the mayor at his own discretion primarily for travel expenses.
Though he didn't suggest that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has improperly used the 18-year-old fund, sponsoring Councilman Corey O'Connor said he thinks the mayor should go through the same process of reimbursement for travel expenses that's followed by all city employees.
"If any Council Member, the Controller, a director wanted to go to Philadelphia or Harrisburg, they can get reimbursed on their credit card or they can ask for an advance just like everybody else does in the system," said O'Connor. "I believe the reason to get rid of this outdated fund and put it in the general fund is so there are no loopholes in the future."
Bill Urbanic, council's budget director, described the mayor's imprest account as a "revolving fund that gets replenished" from the city's general fund automatically when the balance drops too low.
City Controller Michael Lamb said he has performed an audit of the mayoral imprest fund every year he's been in office, but he characterized the audit as more of a simple review of receipts because city code provides so few details as to what the imprest fund is meant to be used for.
Urbanic said there are multiple imprest accounts in various offices across the city, all of which he will be scrutinizing for possible termination over the coming months. For example, the Law Department uses an imprest fund to pay for emergency legal fees. The Bureau of Police also has an imprest fund, and the Department of Parks & Recreation has several as well.
"I'm working with the Controller's office; we're going to get a detailed explanation from each of the directors and understand the particular process and the need for them to have this," said Urbanic.
O'Connor's legislation would delete only the mayor's $10,000 imprest account and transfer any remaining funding into the city's general coffers. He has said that he is open to introducing additional bills in the future to possibly eliminate the city's other imprest funds if they're not found to be necessary.
O'Connor's current bill is up for a final vote on Tuesday.