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Consultant working on Swissvale finances

| Sunday, Dec. 16, 2001

Debby Grass, whose Dormont-based consulting service, DG Consulting and Project Management, has contracted to work with the borough of Swissvale in the aftermath of the dismissal and arrest of the borough's former manager, Tom Esposito. Esposito was arrested in November and charged with stealing more than $800,000 from the borough over an 11- year period. Investigators say Esposito transferred money from several borough accounts into the payroll account and wrote himself more than 600 extra payroll checks. Grass is providing interim borough management services until a new manager is hired.

What kind of financial condition is the borough in?

"They've introduced a budget for 2002 which is on public view and has no tax increase. The milage last year was 9.1, and this budget holds the line on all the departmental services. The borough for this year is at least at the break-even point and should have a little bit of a cash surplus, possibly around $100,000."

One of the red flags on what was happening with borough accounts was the borough's debt in excess of $1 million that piled up with Alcosan. We understand that the borough made a $400,000 payment in October. How do things stand with that account?

"The borough made all of their payments to Alcosan for this year. Obviously, there are some back payments that are due. But we have a payment schedule set up to pay all of those off. We expect to bring that account substantially current by early next year."

How much of your work relates to procedural issues brought up after Espostio's departure?

"None of my work has much relationship to that. It's more just streamlining their functions and setting up their funds in a logical way so they'll be able to get good reports, so that council will get monthly reports on every fund." Grass said she is streamlining the borough's accounts to create fewer accounts to make reporting to council easier. "They had a lot of back accounts that were relatively inactive; it's just good accounting practices and good business practices."

How long are you contracted to work with the borough?

Grass said she interviewed with council in early September and her service agreement started Sept. 17. She said the agreement, which pays her $55 an hour for no more than 20 hours per week, will terminate when council hires a new manager. She said the target date for hiring a new manager in Swissvale is Feb. 20. She said she would make herself available to the borough after that if the need should arise.

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