VisitPITTSBURGH Announces Response to Politically Motivated Allegheny County Audit; Report Includes Factual Errors, Inaccuracies and Omits Key Performance Data

04/13/23

PITTSBURGH – VisitPITTSBURGH today announced its official response to the performance audit published by the Allegheny County Controller’s Office and called out the content of audit “findings” that include factual errors, misleading information and the selective omission of relevant information, including performance results, that are critical to understanding the reported data. This audit was requested by Sen. Wayne Fontana, who is also board chair of the Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

VisitPITTSBURGH asserts that the audit found no irregular or unethical business practices, and the report includes claims and assumptions based on opinion, not facts or data.

“VisitPITTSBURGH is responsible for driving business, sports and leisure tourism into the county, and we have a proven, documented track record of transparency and success,” said VisitPITTSBURGH President & CEO Jerad Bachar. “This audit contains factual errors, misinformation and language that is misleading, most notably regarding VisitPITTSBURGH’s accounting processes, which have been in place for more than 20 years and audited – and validated – by multiple external CPA firms, as well as the County.

“We manage our finances in full compliance with all GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board) guidelines,” added Bachar. “To be clear, these processes accurately, appropriately and thoroughly record all hotel tax income and associated spending according to GAAP and FASB guidelines. Any language in this audit that states or implies otherwise is untrue.”

VisitPITTSBURGH also called attention to the fact that the audit selectively omits data on VisitPITTSBURGH’s sales and marketing results.

“While this audit was announced publicly as a performance audit, it fails to report VisitPITTSBURGH’s performance results, which include the 223 business and sports events confirmed by the organization in 2022 that have an estimated $266 million economic impact value for local businesses,” said Bachar. “Detailed data on the tracked results of our sales and marketing efforts were shared publicly and with the auditors, including total number of events and room nights booked by VisitPITTSBURGH sales staff; this follows national industry standards used to gauge the effectiveness of a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) and is a critical measure of our performance. The deliberate omission of performance results in a performance audit is not only baffling and suspect, it also presents an incomplete and biased assessment to the public, who have the right to an impartial, comprehensive and factual report.”

“Failure to report VisitPITTSBURGH’s sales effort results is also a disservice to the dedicated team of employees who have brought hard-won business to Pittsburgh, beating out competitor cities in the aftermath of a global pandemic, and in the last year alone, securing strong business and sports events and hotel room night bookings,” said VisitPITTSBURGH Board of Directors Chairperson Michele Meloy Burchfield.

VisitPITTSBURGH notes that it cooperated fully during the audit process, made multiple offers to clarify and walk auditors through its accounting processes and is fully transparent in reporting details of both its fiscal and performance results, as well as its budget and spending. Performance results are continually measured and shared regularly with stakeholders. Audited financial statements and detailed performance results are shared via Annual Reports; Quarterly Performance Overviews, which deliver data-supported performance statistics for sales and marketing activities every three months; bi-weekly newsletters; and at Annual Meetings that provide details of performance in all areas of marketing and sales, including business, sports and leisure, communications, and services.

“We look forward to working with the Controller’s Office and our community of stakeholders to ensure a prosperous and successful Pittsburgh,” Bachar said. “VisitPITTSBURGH remains committed to its mission of generating economic impact through business, sports and leisure tourism, and showcasing Pittsburgh as a vibrant, global destination that is welcoming to all. We continue our dedication to working with all stakeholders, including the Sports & Exhibition Authority, to move the industry forward.”

VisitPITTSBURGH’s full and public response to the audit is detailed below and can also be accessed at visitpittsburgh.com/response-to-county-audit.

VisitPITTSBURGH is the official tourism marketing and promotion agency of the Pittsburgh region. The organization is dedicated to generating business events, sports events and leisure travel.