Trade group defends credit union's acceptance of cash from former police Chief Nate Harper
The Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union was correct in accepting money that the FBI alleges former police Chief Nate Harper tapped for personal purchases, a credit union trade group said Thursday. But city officials say the credit union should have at least questioned whether Harper had authority to oversee the deposit of city money into two accounts that figure prominently in the FBI investigation.
“We know that was not an authorized bank account,” Controller Michael Lamb said. “If they were accepting checks payable to the city, you would think that would have raised some red flags with someone at the credit union.”
Mike Wishnow, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, said the credit union would have no reason to question Harper. Credit Union CEO Karen Janoski did not return a phone call.
“Frankly, I'm not aware of a financial institution that would refuse to open an account for any legitimate entity that came to them,” Wishnow said. “It happens all the time. As long as the account holder is a legitimate signatory, which the police chief is, then you do what your account holder directs you to do.”
The FBI charged Harper last week with diverting more that $70,000 into two accounts at the credit union and using more than $31,000 to buy such things as booze, meals and a television.
Harper's indictment lists 14 checks from businesses that employed police officers for off-duty security. The checks went to credit union accounts labeled “Special Events” and “IPF.” It says Harper, who was listed as the account holder, directed police employees to open the accounts and deposit money in them.
Sandy Lazzara, who retired as CEO of the credit union last year and serves on its supervisory committee, said the checks were accepted because they were made out to the police bureau and deposited by those who opened the accounts.
“It was not an illegal deposit for us,” she said. “You had these checks coming in for the police department that were deposited into the police account. For us, it's logical.”
City Councilman Bill Peduto, who is running for mayor and previously chaired council's finance committee, said the credit union should have checked to make sure Harper was authorized to open the accounts.
“I, as a member of council and as an elected representative, cannot walk into a bank and deposit checks that say ‘The City of Pittsburgh' on them, and a police chief shouldn't be able to, either,” he said. “I just don't get how that would be a generally accepted practice.”
Wishnow said the credit union, which exclusively serves police officers, would have a long-standing trust in the police bureau.
“You have an organization that owns the account, and you have an individual who is authorized as the account holder to transact business,” he said. “That's essentially what happened here.”
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Trib real estate writer Spatter ‘worked right to the end’
- Pittsburgh councilwoman proposes rules for protecting dogs from extreme weather
- Pa. Medicaid growth in tug of war between departing Governor Corbett, incoming Wolf
- Newsmaker: Irene H. Frieze
- Ambridge police chief went undercover in attempt to catch person who robbed 2 people at knifepoint
- Coaches lead discussions to influence athletes’ attitudes toward women, avoiding violence
- No federal funds to help enforce Pa. ban on texting by drivers
- U.S. Steel to relocate corporate headquarters on former Civic Arena site
- Defying the odds makes this Thanksgiving particularly poignant
- Allegheny County Council wants to hike members’ $3K expense accounts
- Allegheny County adoption event joins 40 children with families