11 Investigates digs into receipts from South Fayette Township government trip to local resort

SOUTH FAYETTE TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Growing outrage continues in South Fayette after new receipts shed light on local officials spending taxpayer money at a luxury resort.

11 Investigates told you on Friday about the January planning meeting that took place at the Omni Bedford Springs Resort and Spa. Four South Fayette commissioners, the township manager, a consultant and several spouses stay the night for a day-and-a-half meeting.

Receipts show the rooms cost more than $6,000. Dinner cost nearly $2,000 and included a $230 bottle of wine, and $85 dollar steaks, among other expensive options.

Lindsay Schmitz, South Fayette mom, tells Channel 11 she’s disappointed, calling the trip “self-serving.“

“You expect the commissioners to be stewards of our money,” she said.

Receipts show the trip totaled approximately $10,000 plus another nearly $10,000 to the consultant, for his work that day, preparing for the meeting, and reports that came out of the meeting.

“Bottles of wine, expensive mixed drinks, eighty-five dollar steaks? If you are using your own money that’s one thing, you have the right, but to do it on taxpayer dollars... for what purpose? I don’t see it to be fiscally responsible at all,” said Schmitz.

We reached out to the township with questions on how the taxpayer money was used. Township Manager John Barrett gave us this statement:

The Board of Commissioners held a strategic planning session, sometimes referred to as a Board retreat, on January 13 and 14, 2023. The event was held at the Omni Bedford Springs Conference Center. This venue is routinely used by Statewide Training Agencies, Municipal Associations, and other corporate and nonprofit organizations for business meetings, conferences and events. The session was advertised and held in accordance with the Pa Sunshine Law. The Board has retained a record of this meeting and presented the details at our February public meeting.

Strategic planning is a tool for municipal officials to ensure effective and efficient delivery of services to the community. Municipal governance is fast paced, particularly in communities like South Fayette, where the population is rapidly expanding, commercial real estate values are growing and demand for services are increasing. Given this environment, our elected leaders often find themselves devoting more and more time to Township business and are challenged to find time to focus on community visioning. Strategic planning maintains focus and results in efficient implementation. The strategic plan is the elected official’s vision for the community and provides a guiding framework for budgeting new resources and reallocating existing ones.

The Township is aware of the expenses surrounding the strategic planning session and understands citizens’ concerns over the use of public funds. South Fayette Township has consistently received clean annual audits, achieved multiple year-end General Fund surpluses, recently earned a ‘AA’ bond rating from S & P Global, and recognizes the importance of fiscal accountability.

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