11 Investigates Exclusive: Deputy mayor defends Juneteenth bid winner

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh’s deputy mayor is defending the decision to award funding for the city’s Juneteenth celebration to a company with ties to the mayor.

That decision isn’t sitting well with the man who got the funding last year and has brought Juneteenth celebrations to Pittsburgh every year for over a decade.

“I’m ashamed of what this mayor and this administration has done to divide the African American community,” said Will Anderson, Chair of the Allegheny County Democratic Black Caucus.

At City Council Tuesday morning, Anderson called out the Mayor and urged council members to reinstate the funding for B. Marshall’s Juneteenth celebration.

City Council voted last year to give Marshall $125,000 for his Juneteenth celebrations in 2023 and 2024, but the mayor’s office pulled the funding this year and opened it up for bid.

Marshall submitted a bid, but the city awarded it to Bounce Marketing, an events management company that had previously worked with the Mayor.

Chief Investigator Rick Earle questioned the deputy mayor.

Earle: This wasn’t rigged because of Mayor Gainey’s tight connections with her?

Pawlak: Not at all. The committee reviewed three bids and scored them through a normal procedure, and made a determination based on who put together the most responsive proposal.

Pawlak said the winning bid emphasized the arts.

Earle: What do you say to B. Marshall, who’s done this for years? He’s been a trailblazer when it comes to Juneteenth, and he feels like he’s been squeezed out?

Pawlak: I don’t think that’s true at all. As I understand it from some of his public communications that he still fully intends to have his event.

With or without the city’s funding,  Marshall, who’s been holding the celebration for more than a decade, says his event will go on, although he’s still working out details with the city and the state over security and other issues at Point State Park.

He said every year it’s a struggle.

“We always get something from the state or the city, a roadblock to try to stop us from doing our thing,” said Marshall.

As for the funding that was pulled from Marshall this year, council must now approve the contract with Bounce.

It’s scheduled for discussion and a preliminary vote on Wednesday.

“There’s been a lot of rumors. There’s been a lot of innuendo about what went on, but tomorrow at the standing committee meeting we will get to the bottom of what really happened,” said Councilman Khari Mosley.

Some supporters of Marshall are questioning how the administration could pull the funding from him after he had a contract that was approved by City Council and signed by the Mayor.

That will likely be the big topic of discussion at council tomorrow, as they are set to take a preliminary vote on the funding.

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