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Pittsburgh Marathon to take over Great Race as spending inquiry wraps up

Bob Bauder
| Wednesday, May 31, 2017, 7:03 p.m.
Runners warming up are framed by the slats of a support at the starting line in Squirrel Hill before Pittsburgh's Great Race, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Runners warming up are framed by the slats of a support at the starting line in Squirrel Hill before Pittsburgh's Great Race, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016.

The Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race will go off as scheduled in 2017 and continue to support amyloidosis research under new management by the Pittsburgh Marathon, city officials said Wednesday.

Mayor Bill Peduto's office Tuesday approved a contract with Three Rivers Pittsburgh Marathon Inc. to replace the city Parks and Recreation Department as race manager. The change comes in wake of an investigation into department spending from race accounts.

The contract with the Pittsburgh Marathon is for three years with two option years, said Sam Ashbaugh, Pittsburgh's chief financial officer. Management fees have not been finalized, he said. Sponsorships and entry fees cover the cost.

“We're just trying to work out the final details,” he said.

Peduto this month ordered the Office of Municipal Investigations to look into spending from two accounts associated with the Great Race, including a city trust fund and a bank account held by South Side-based nonprofit City Source Associates.

The mayor said OMI has finished the investigation. He would not discuss details.

“I'm in the process of going through the recommendations,” Peduto said. “I hope by the end of this week to have disciplinary actions — if warranted — issued.”

The investigation has already resulted in discipline for parks Deputy Director Jamie Beechey, Peduto said. Officials on May 8 suspended her without pay for 15 days. She returned to work on Tuesday. Beechey declined comment.

“It was related to the investigation, but the specifics have to wait until I go through the entire report,” Peduto said.

Peduto previously said a parks employee notified his office about a potential problem with race funds.

Pittsburgh in April closed the City Source account and a balance of $422,223 was transferred to a Special Parks Program Trust Fund, which also collects money for the race.

The parks department spent $343,326 from the trust Fund in 2016. At least 40 percent of that paid for expenses other than the Great Race, according to invoices.

Expenses included paying for a clown to appear at park events, repairs to the Westwood swimming pool and rental of a tree stump grinder and backhoe for work in Frick Park.

City Source Executive Director Bill Harlak said none of money under his control paid for the clowns, swimming pool repairs and other items. City Source is primarily a property maintenance contractor for Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority, but also acted at the request of the city as a “pass through” for Great Race funds, Harlak said.

The fund is audited each year by an independent accounting firm, he said.

“They asked us to do this 20 or so years ago,” he said. “We never went to them and solicited them or anything. We know we did everything above board.”

City Controller Michael Lamb's office is preparing to audit parks spending at the request of the administration, according to Peduto and Deputy Controller Doug Anderson. The audit will center on the City Source account, Anderson said.

Mayor Richard Caliguiri, who died in 1988 of amyloidosis, established the race in 1977 as a community “fun run.” The city donates $1 from each registration fee to the Richard S. Caliguiri Amyloidosis Fund, which supports medical research. The donations totaled $14,618 in 2016.

Ashbaugh said the event will continue to feature 5K and 10K races, plus a health and fitness expo. The race is scheduled for Sept. 24. It's expected to draw about 16,500 competitors.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, bbauder@tribweb.com or @bobbauder.

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