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Weeks after Pittsburgh City Council authorized a $125,000 payment to a popular Juneteenth event organizer, the city still has not paid him a dime — and it’s unclear if it ever will.

William “B” Marshall was set to receive money from the city’s fund of federal covid-19 relief dollars to support his annual Juneteenth event. City Council approved the payment two weeks ago.

Now, Marshall said, he’s still waiting on the money — and that means he’s still waiting to pay some of the artists who participated in his event.

This comes after city officials in recent weeks had heated debates about whether the city should help fund Marshall’s event at all. Marshall accused Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey’s administration of trying to “sabotage” his Juneteenth celebration.

“They’re holding us up,” Marshall said Wednesday. “This is yet another attempt by the Gainey administration to halt our funding.”

Last year, City Council authorized legislation to provide Marshall up to $250,000 for his celebration over two years. The city ultimately penned a deal with him for half that amount for 2023 only.

The Gainey administration then launched a competitive bid process to choose an event organizer who would host a city-sponsored celebration this summer. They picked someone else, leaving Marshall fuming that he was feeling rooked.

Trying to find a compromise, City Council this year authorized money for the administration’s chosen event organizer, Bounce Marketing & Events, and for Marshall.

Both were set to get $125,000 for separate Juneteenth festivities this year.

But Marshall has not received his money.

It was not clear Wednesday afternoon whether Bounce had been paid.

Waiver confusion

Jake Pawlak, Pittsburgh’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, last week wrote in an email to City Council that the administration was aware that council had authorized the payments to Marshall.

The payments would take the form of a reimbursement grant through the Poise Foundation, which works with Marshall.

Pawlak cited previous council action that required the city solicitor to sign off on waivers of the competitive bidding process when the city planned to provide cash to entities that had not won a standard competitive bid — like Marshall.

The money allocated to Marshall’s event, Pawlak said, has no such waiver.

The administration, he said, was “unsure how to reconcile” that fact with the council’s request to give him the funding. He asked council to elaborate on their intentions.

There was a waiver in 2023 that claimed there was no other entity hosting such celebrations in the city, Pawlak acknowledged.

Since the city has since launched a competitive bid process that drew other applicants — and resulted in another company winning the contract and hosting a Juneteenth event — the 2023 waiver “is no longer accurate,” Pawlak said.

He said the administration was looking to council to explain how the payment to Marshall “could comply with the city’s contracting process” before finalizing the contract.

“The mayor is committed to honest and regulatory compliance with respect to all matters related to the city’s finances, and would welcome your input as we review this unusual situation,” Pawlak wrote.

Hands are tied

Maria Montaño, a Gainey spokeswoman, said the letter also was sent to the city controller and Allegheny County’s district attorney.

“As you know we are facing much greater scrutiny in regard to no-bid contracts, and before the contract was signed by the mayor, the administration wanted to hear from those entities around these issues,” she said in a statement, adding that the administration had not yet received responses.

Council President R. Daniel Lavelle, D-Hill District, on Wednesday said council had not responded to the correspondence and did not intend to take any action.

He said their hands are tied.

“We’ve authorized them to enter into an agreement,” he said. “It’s up to the administration now whether or not to do so.”

Council could not force the administration to execute the contract they authorized, he said, but the body has been “clear on its intent” that council would like to see Marshall receive the funds.

Julia Burdelski is a TribLive reporter covering Pittsburgh City Hall and other news in and around Pittsburgh. A La Roche University graduate, she joined the Trib in 2020. She can be reached at jburdelski@triblive.com.