The grant appears to limit the car's use to anti-terrorism efforts, specifically the surveillance of Pittsburgh locations that are potential terrorist targets. Federal guidelines say: "failure to comply may result in the withholding of funds, termination of the award, or other sanctions".
The Federal Emergency Management Agency-- part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security---tells Channel 4 Action News: "FEMA headquarters has asked PEMA for a full accounting of the situation including what actions pema has taken and what actions they plan to take."
The federal grant that paid for the car is for the "Buffer Zone Protection Program" (BZZP) . It's meant to "make it more difficult for terrorists to conduct surveillance or launch attacks on critical infrastructure and facilities."
After a police sergeant's repeated complaints up the chain of command, Mayor Ravenstahl stopped using the Yukon. Among his personal travels in the police vehicle was a trip with friends to a Toby Keith concert at the PG Pavilion in Washington County.
FEMA tells Channel 4 Action news that "the concert was not an allowable use of the vehicle." Spokeswoman Marlene Phillips says "FEMA headquarters expects the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) to look into the situation, report back to FEMA headquarters on its finding, and to take appropriate action." She says "it's part of PEMA's responsibility." Earlier this month, PEMA told Channel 4 Action News that the agency was simply "a channel" for the funding.
After Mayor Ravenstahl stopped using the Yukon, Police Chief Nate Harper still asserted that he can assign the vehicle for things other than those specified in the Homeland Security grant. On October 3rd, he asked reporters: "Are you saying that then I should let those vehicles sit, not utilize them, and leave the officers stand by to wait for a vehicle? we aren't going to do that".
FEMA tells Channel 4 Action News that "general use vehicles are not an allowable expense." Spokewoman Phillips says "this was an authorized purchase of a surveillance vehicle under the BZZP program. Under BZZP, allowable expenses include vehicles purchased for surveillance of critical infrastructure."
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Maria Finn tells Channel 4 Action News "this matter is under review and we will continue to work with FEMA. Pending the outcome of the review, PEMA will take those results into consideration and determine appropriate actions, if any".
Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Mike Huss says "we've talked with PEMA since this first came out, where the mayor realized that the vehicle was purchased with homeland security monies. I immediately contacted PEMA and advised them of this situation and have been in contact with PEMA since this happened. They're aware of it. We've discussed it. They've asked us to maintain a log on use of the vehicle and these types of things. It's under their purview to look at the situation and take what action it feels necessary."
U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan has said previously that her office is reviewing the situation. Her office says she has no comment on the status of that review.