Williamsport’s transit department $11M in debt after allegations of funds misallocated, misappropriated

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WILLIAMSPORT, LYCOMING COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The Pennsylvania Attorney General is looking into allegations that money was misused by the city of Williamsport. Now city officials are undergoing the tedious task of tracking down how millions of dollars were spent.

The city has been under investigation for well over a year.

Mayor Derek Slaughter says they’re working with a third-party auditor. The audit will help them figure out if procedures were followed properly and point to safeguards to prevent misspending in the future.

Williamsport’s biweekly finance meeting began with discussing the January 2019 to June 2020 River Valley Transit Bureau of Transportation audit.

According to Slaughter, the report showed several inconsistencies.

“Just a lot of discrepancies across the board related to the way our transit finances were handled and the way they were spent, or misspent,” Slaughter said.

Slaughter says he noticed these issues with spending and contacted the Lycoming County District Attorney last year.

“I sent those to the DA’s office who ultimately sent them to the Attorney General’s Office,” said Slaughter.

The attorney general has been investigating these finances since February 2020. The city’s transportation bureau’s debt is in the millions and city officials are going through the audit line by line to figure out where it’s been spent.

“$11 million in transit debt is astounding,” said Slaughter. “Obviously they’re working through that to see where some of that debt came from, why there’s that much.”

Federal and state grants must be spent for their intended use and if not, several actions could take place.

“We could be on the hook potentially to PennDOT and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) if we misspent those grant dollars, which it appears we did and we could have to pay those back,” Slaughter said.

Williamsport’s city controller Margaret Woodring issued a statement to Eyewitness News that reads: “I was told there was a problem, but did not realize the extent of it. Hopefully, going forward, solutions have been put in place to make sure the problems will not be repeated.”

Some of those solutions include an anti-fraud hotline and setting up a transportation committee to monitor spending.

Eyewitness News reached out to the district attorney’s office but received no comment.

The city council’s next public meeting is Thursday at 7 p.m. You can watch the meeting here.

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