Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hired, other resigned: vindication, ethical and PROACTIVE

A number of issues are spin into this posting. Koch gets hired by the mayor. Lamb resigns from the board of A+ Schools and the Ethics Hearing Board gets self determination.

All three matters were woven into the packets of complaints that I filed with the Pittsburgh Ethics Hearing Board a few months ago. Each are resolved.

First, today's P-G reports:
Ousted politicians land on their feet at city hall Former Councilman Jeff Koch, defeated in the May Democratic primary, is now a special streets program supervisor in the Public Works Department.
Word on the street was a typical, but wrong, 'to the victor goes the spoils' saga. Mr. Koch is a long-time, valued, insightful guy who departed city council at the start of 2008. It made great sense to re-hire him as a city worker to do the work of residents as great help is hard to find. Koch gets things done. He works hard. He is down to earth and straight forward in his dealings. We need knowledgeable, skilled, city employees on the job.

I was proactive in my challenge to the Ethics Hearing Board. I didn't have proof. But, the matter is resolved now.

Now we are left to wonder. Did the hiring of Koch by Ravenstahl come after the vote on Monday? Humm...

Hindsight: Koch's hiring could have happened in July. Then he could have resigned from city council and that office could have been taken out of its lame duck status months earlier. That would have pushed up the money in the city budget's vacancy allowance of unfilled positions. But, that's okay. I didn't rant about the lame duck members of council -- and their staffs -- but I pondered it. I'll make that point in a policy paper later and not be as bold in my attacks at people in jobs today.

But back to current events and inside Grant Street. The Kraus vote for Shields as City Council's President might have insured the hiring of Koch to the Public Works department. That's just a hunch.

However, it will be interesting to see if Kraus should pitch a fit, or, just get to the clean-up that is needed in Oakland.

Memo to the 'clean, green and mean' councilman, Kraus: Read the paper. Go pick-up that trash!
Incursion of slobs rankles longtime South Oakland residents Some of those who remain are demanding that the city and the University of Pittsburgh do more to combat the trash and unruliness they see all around them.
Two other interesting development to watch for in the future, should Koch get on the job, as hoped, in the months to come. When you see Mr. Koch on the job, either in a jumpsuit or a three-piece suit, look to see if you can spot any message on his t-shirt. And, look to the dashboard of his vehicle for the bobble-head doll.

(insert blog artwork here)

The city should be working on INFRASTRUCTURE. That is a major plank and policy to promote at ever turn (pun intended).
Skimpy water line waylays opening of county's bioterror lab ... The $5 million state-of-the-art bioterror lab in Lawrenceville took more than five years to build and is finally finished, but the county can't move in because the water line to the sophisticated laboratory is too small to support the building's sprinkler system.

The 10,000-square-foot building was finished in mid-December but couldn't get a city occupancy permit because of the water supply problem caused by a corroded, 4-inch cast iron water line dating to the 1930s, ...
A good friend of mine has suggested to me that the 'infrastructure bandwagon' is one to jump upon with full force. Libertarian and Republican candidates in the city and region could win elected office if they harp upon INFRASTRUCTURE. Our pipes are crumbling. The rash of water main breaks hurt the economy.

I'm too much of a 'generalist' to campaign on a single issue. I favor the freestyle -- ranting at will upon things that need to be addressed. But others could pick up this mode of operation and find great success in winning votes -- and perhaps -- beating incumbent Democrats.

Sewer pipes, retaining walls, rehab of bridges and street lighting are not sexy political issues for candidates. But, if the nuts and bolts matters of public infrastructure are championed, candidates of any party would earn respect and votes. And by all means, I don't mean to imply that new tunnels under the Allegheny River to get to the stadiums should be put into the category of 'infrastructure stewardship.' Building the tunnel under the river is nothing but a boondoggle. Spending the nearly billion dollars to do that project is going to further weaken the budgets to take care of what we already have.

Second: Michael Lamb, the city's new controller, has resigned from the board of A+ Schools. I have learned from Carrie Harris, the executive director of A+ Schools, that Michael Lamb made a verbal resignation. That's good. That's behind us now too, thankfully, finally.

Third: Wrangling in city council at the end of 2007 about the budget and home for the Ethics Hearing Board have taken some of the pressure off the matters with the other complaint. I think that the Ethics Hearing Board is unethical -- and filed a complaint against that entity. But, things are moving to fix these issues. Most of all, when a complaint is filed with the Ethics Hearing Board, it won't get screened by the Law Department. The Law Department sat on my complaints. The complaints were filed, a meeting was held weeks later, and the complaints were NOT put before the Ethics Hearing Board because of Law Department red tape. A major divorce has to happen between the Ethics Hearing Board and the Law Department. Sister Patrice can open her own mail.

There is much more to be done. But, that round is over. We need to be proactive. We need to celebrate victories.


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Anonymous said...

City Council: After a wild week of speculation, reformers come out on top - News - News - Pittsburgh City Paper - Pittsburgh: "City Council: After a wild week of speculation, reformers come out on top"

Anonymous said...

Ousted politicians land on their feet at city hall
Thursday, January 10, 2008
By Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Dislodged by elections, four politically involved employees of Pittsburgh City Council or the controller's office have found posts within Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration.

Former Councilman Jeff Koch, defeated in the May Democratic primary by Bruce Kraus, is now a special streets program supervisor in the Public Works Department. New to the Parks Department is Ron Deutsch, an ex-aide to defeated Councilman Len Bodack.

Audit Manager John R. Morgan and accountant C. Michael Turpin left posts in the controller's office, now run by Michael Lamb after decades under Tom Flaherty and his deputy, Tony Pokora. Mr. Morgan started Monday as a financial analyst with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, and Mr. Turpin joined the Finance Department.

"These people were working for the city," said administration spokeswoman Alecia Sirk. "They're qualified and they do good work. They've got an institutional memory that complements the skills they have.

"You've got people that are leaving offices and asking if there are other places they can be used in the system," she said, adding that all of the posts are exempt from civil service requirements.

"They've worked in government. Presuming they're competent, maybe there's a place for them," said Morton Coleman, former director of the University of Pittsburgh's Institute of Politics and a top city aide in the 1960s.

"Everybody's getting ready for the next election," he added. "If Luke feels he's in a fight, he wants to build political support if he can, and maybe he has helped them find positions."

Mr. Ravenstahl faces the voters again in 2009. Mr. Koch, Mr. Bodack and Mr. Pokora left office last week.

Mr. Koch will earn $47,307, less than the $55,029 he made last year. The 45-year-old Arlington resident worked in the Public Works Department from 1980 until his 2006 election to council, and is also a member of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. He could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Morgan, 48, left a $51,400 job in the controller's office for a $57,500 post at the water authority.

"It was a position that was in the budget, and he applied for it," Ms. Sirk said. The boost in pay reflects the fact that he became a certified public accountant, she said.

He volunteered for Mr. Ravenstahl's campaign last year.

Asked whether political involvement had any role in the transfers, Ms. Sirk said, "Absolutely not." She said that many people in the city's 3,300-person work force, from council aides to rank-and-file employees, have political roles, because people who are interested in government often get involved in elections.

Mr. Deutsch, 73, will earn $29,899 working as a full-time administrative aide to Assistant Parks Director Dick Skrinjar, who was himself bumped into that department from the mayor's office in April after 16 months as the administration spokesman. Mr. Deutsch is expected to do outreach to senior citizens.

He is the chairman of the 9th Ward Democratic Committee.

"Dick's been doing great things with the seniors in the Parks and Recreation Department," Ms. Sirk said. "Here's an opportunity to use other skill sets and talents to continue to grow service in it."

Mr. Deutsch's official salary as a council aide was $36,000, but he made less than that because he worked part-time.

Mr. Turpin, 55, becomes a finance administrator in the Finance Department. His salary remains $39,951.

"He's an accountant," said Ms. Sirk. "For finance administration, he was a natural fit."

He ran for school board in 2005.
Rich Lord can be reached at or 412-263-1542.