Pittsburgh mayor denies ethics investigation into his 'Undercover Boss' performance
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto claims “there is no state ethics investigation” into his “Undercover Boss” appearance.
The mayor's statement was in response to a KDKA-TV report Friday that Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. confirmed the State Ethics Commission was looking into the mayor's gifts to city employees on the CBS television show.
Zappala spokesman Mike Manko denied that the DA made any such confirmation.
KDKA-TV News Director Anne Linaberger declined to comment.
Robert Caruso, executive director of the State Ethics Commission, said the agency cannot confirm or deny anything regarding investigations until the commission makes a decision.
Under state law, anyone disclosing or acknowledging the existence of an ethics investigation can be charged with a misdemeanor. A conviction carries a potential $1,000 fine or a year in jail.
Peduto pledged to give $155,000 to four city employees during his appearance on the show last month.
He has said the money will come from private donors, although at least one agency — VisitPittsburgh — receives some of its money from taxpayers.
Peduto said city attorneys reviewed both the state and city ethics codes before the show. He said the code includes a broad allowance for “charitable gifts” to employees.
Mike Ceoffe, president of Teamsters Local 249, which represents employees in the city Department of Public Works, including trash haulers, said no members filed grievances about the show's awards.
“I'm not going to take money out of someone's hand if the city's willing to give it to them,” Ceoffe said.
Joseph Rossi, the union's outgoing president, did file a grievance over Peduto performing union work when he collected trash.
That's the union's right, Peduto said.
The mayor said his office contacted the State Ethics Commission and the district attorney, and there is no investigation.
“There is a sublime ridiculousness to politics sometimes,” Peduto said.
Objections to the gifts he made on the show are simply attempts to turn something good into something bad, he said.
Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner said she's releasing almost $682,000 in county hotel tax money to VisitPittsburgh after threatening to withhold it over concern that taxpayers' funds were used for a $25,000 contribution toward gifts pledged in the appearance.
The donation “never should've happened,” she said.
Wagner said she is notifying the quasi-public agency in writing of her concerns before it considers another $25,000 donation.
VisitPittsburgh Executive Director Craig Davis said he stands by the initial investment, and the organization's board will consider the second contribution at its meeting next month.
Staff writer Melissa Daniels contributed to this report. Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or email@example.com.