Handing out money is not necessarily a simple thing, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto discovered after his appearance on the CBS show "Undercover Boss."
"I would love to be able to help every employee in the city of Pittsburgh, but the reality of it is, I'm not a corporate CEO with a billion dollars to be able to give away," Peduto said on the Dec. 21 broadcast. "I can't even use taxpayer dollars; I had to pick up a phone and raise money from friends in order to be able to help the employees that I met this past week."
It's that second sentence that's caused the kerfuffle.
The fallout has included what his spokesman has called a "cheap political stunt" by the county controller, mention of a possible investigation by the state Ethics Commission and a labor union grievance.
"Public money, being gifted to private individuals" is the concern, Allegheny County Deputy Controller Amy Griser told Watchdog.org.
Peduto appeared on the CBS reality show right before Christmas. During the course of the taping, he spent hours in makeup each day to become "Ed Chadwick" from Kentucky.
Peduto worked with two city employees and two employees of the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh. After his work with them, hearing their personal and professional concerns, and witnessing the jobs they do, Peduto got to play Santa Claus in a different sort of suit.
Sitting down with each of the four employees, Peduto explained the very specific gifts or other solutions.
That included, among other things, tuition for them to finish school or to help with tuition for their children, money toward a parent's health issues, or money to prevent foreclosure and pay down a mortgage.
The money came from donor pledges, which totaled $155,000.