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Zappala questions use of constables

| Thursday, June 21, 2012, 1:35 a.m.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. questions whether the Pittsburgh Housing Authority should use constables for security and wants details about two nonprofits the authority operates.

He has asked City Controller Michael Lamb to audit the authority's contract with Carnegie-based Victory Security and to audit the nonprofits.

“Constables are not law enforcement; they're not police officers and there's a tremendous amount of crime coming out of those areas. The failure to police it properly has impacted the entire neighborhood,” Zappala said. “The question is, ‘Does it constitute a public nuisance?'”

Zappala wants to know about operations of two nonprofits connected to the authority: Clean Slate E3 Inc., which provides a youth scholarship program, and Allies & Ross Management and Development Corp., the development arm of the authority.

Zappala said he wanted to know how many scholarships Clean Slate awarded and why Allies & Ross exists.

“Is that supposed to be a redevelopment entity? I thought they were supposed to manage real estate,” Zappala said.

The authority's executive director, Fulton Meachem, did not return calls seeking response. Meachem is a board member on both nonprofits.

City Councilman Ricky Burgess, who chairs the authority, also did not return calls. A spokesman for Victory said the security firm had no comment.

Clare Ann Fitzgerald, general counsel for the Housing Authority, declined to give details about the Victory contract, saying the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General was reviewing it.

“(The Housing Authority) has had no issues with these organizations and received no inquiries about them,” Fitzgerald said.

Lamb said he met with Zappala last week and that his office will audit the contract with Victory along with the two nonprofits. Lamb said he hoped to start the process by the end of the summer.

The audit of the Victory contract will include performance and fiscal issues, and whether there are problems with constables incorrectly billing, Lamb said.

Federal tax filings for Clean Slate show that in 2010 the nonprofit had $227,225 in revenue — the majority from government grants — and $12,718 in expenses, including eight scholarship awards totaling $10,000.

Allies & Ross had $5.26 million in total revenue in 2010, according to its IRS Form 990, and expenses totaled $665,104.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927.

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