If DNC money is misspent, taxpayers on hook

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The federal government is giving Philadelphia a $43 million grant to help secure the city for the Democratic National Convention. (WPVI)

The federal government is giving Philadelphia a $43 million grant to help secure the city for the Democratic National Convention.

But Action News Investigative Reporter Wendy Saltzman found out if that money is misspent, residents could be on the hook for the tab.

The conventions showcase the pageantry of politics. Extravagant spectacles, that pack in politicians, protesters and of course the parties.

"There's not a city I'd rather be in than Philadelphia," said First Deputy Managing Director Brian Abernathy.

Abernathy is in charge of making sure the event goes smoothly. From protecting past presidents, to the parties' nominee, and there's a looming threat of riots and possible violence.

"I think we've always expected a significant number of protesters," said Abernathy.

To that end, the City of Philadelphia has been awarded a $43 million dollar federal grant earmarked for public safety and law enforcement. A similar grant is awarded each year to both of the hosting cities, but dolling out those dollars hasn't come without its own complications.

"We're the watchdog for the Justice Department. We watch the money, see where it's going," said Inspector General Michael Horowitz, U.S. Department of Justice.

Horowitz is in charge of auditing the host cities to account for every taxpayer penny.

"I think any taxpayer should care how their money is being spent," said Horowitz. "If it's misused by the city, they will be required to repay it."

The grant is designated for law enforcement and security needs, specifically for the convention. But in 2012, Horowitz found what he said were clear abuses.

The City of Tampa purchased a grant-funded SUV, the mayor was later seen driving himself, unrelated to the convention, or public safety. He also questioned Charlotte's purchase of two vehicles, plus overtime expenditures. Charlotte was required to pay back approximately $79,000 in unsupported costs.

"The Justice Department went back and recovered money from the cities afterwards based on our audits," said Horowitz.

"It's our duty and our responsibility to make sure that we're spending that appropriately," said Abernathy. "We owe it to the taxpayers, and we certainly owe it to our residents."

Abernathy says he has been working with the Justice Department to make sure every dollar in Philadelphia is being used to the letter of the law.

"Just under $10 million is being spent on staff, and then another $8 million is being spent on the Secure Transit System," said Abernathy.

That's for delegate transportation. Another $7 million will be spent on equipment like public safety radios, and almost $10 million is allocated for supplies.

He says the city will not be purchasing an armored vehicle as was originally reported, and he will be leasing instead of purchasing motorcycles and vehicles for additional security staff and outside law enforcement, to avoid another issue highlighted in previous audits.

"That's not to say that there's not gonna be some cost to the city. Undoubtedly there will be," said Abernathy.

But Abernathy says it will all be worth it to host the world class event. The city is doing its best to minimize disruptions for residents, but recognizes we have to be prepared for anything.

Abernathy points out he knows Philadelphia will be audited, and says ultimately the buck stops with him.
Related Topics:
politicsAction News Investigationphiladelphia news2016 democratic national convention - dncdemocratshillary clintonpresidential race
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