Three top Republican state senators joined Gov. Wolf in calling on the state auditor general to review whether state taxpayer money financed bonuses for Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee staffers following the Democratic National Convention.
The committee raised $86 million, including a $10 million grant from the state. The Inquirer and Daily News reported last week that the committee used surplus funds to give more than $900,000 in hefty bonuses to the 16-member host committee staff. The committee also said it put its surplus toward $1.2 million in grants to local nonprofits and more than $528,000 in municipal services refunds to the city. The committee has maintained that no taxpayer money went toward salaries or bonuses.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Monday that he would review documents on how the committee used the state's $10 million but stopped short of agreeing to an audit.
"Any waste of state tax dollars is unacceptable, no matter what the reason," DePasquale said in a statement. "Once I receive the grant documents from the governor's office, I will direct my staff to review the materials, and then I will announce any next steps."
On Monday, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, and Senate Appropriations Chair Pat Browne sent a letter to DePasquale criticizing former Gov. Ed Rendell, chairman of the DNC committee, for approving the bonuses. The highest, for executive director Kevin Washo, was $310,000. Rendell has said that Washo's pay was part bonus and part back pay for work he did early in the process.
Rendell said that the $10 million grant was put in a bank account separate from general host committee costs and that no taxpayer money went toward salaries or bonuses. An audit report of the grant found the funds had been used appropriately.
The audit, conducted by local accounting firm JT Goldstein, was 10 pages long and broke down the host committee's use of the $10 million grant into three categories. The committee spent $5.8 million on the venue license, $2.5 million in construction management, and $1.7 million in construction, according to the audit. The committee spent all $10 million within nine days.
But the legislators called the audit "woefully inadequate" and lacking in details or receipts of spending.
"We remain fearful that some of the state resources were indeed, directly or indirectly, utilized for staff bonuses and targeted special-interest initiatives," the letter said.
Wolf said Monday that he had not spoken to Rendell about the controversy surrounding the local DNC host committee's decision to hand out bonuses with the surplus money.
He reiterated that he was disappointed in the host committee's decision.
"I contrast that with my inauguration," he said. "I went out and raised private money for that, and I also ran a net profit and I gave that to charity. … I thought that was the right thing to do."
Rendell has defended the bonuses, saying the money made up for low pay and long hours in the lead-up to the convention.
"Having said that, I'm more than agreeable to an audit by the auditor general," Rendell said Monday. "We're confident that the auditor general will come to the same conclusion that we have. The state was not taken advantage of in any way."
Rendell said on Friday that donors shouldn't be concerned with the surplus spending. "No donor did this out of the kindness of their heart. They all wanted access," he said. "They got exactly what they donated for. No donor should feel cheated."
On Monday, Rendell said donors were given VIP packages and passes to convention-related events and the convention floor, depending on the size of the contribution.
"No donor was cheated in any way -- they had benefits at different levels, they chose a level, and they got exactly what they paid for," Rendell said.
Daniel Gordon, a founder of Peters Gordon Realty, gave $25,000 to the host committee and said he would have preferred to decide where the extra money ended up.
"I didn't even go," Gordon said of the convention. "My logic behind it was, I'm a liberal Democrat, so I wanted to support the event because I thought it was really good for the city. But, you know, if there was a surplus, well, I wouldn't have minded getting some of that back. I could use it to donate to something else in Philadelphia."
Leslie Ann Miller, chairwoman of the board of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, gave $200,000 to the host committee. Although Miller was unaware of the surplus, she said she supported spending extra funds on staff bonuses and local charities.