PITTSBURGH – Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced today that after speaking with County Council President Charles Martoni, Democratic Caucus Leader John DeFazio and Republican Caucus Leader Jan Rea, that he will no longer request resignation letters and will destroy any such letters currently in the possession of his office.
“I had a full and candid discussion with Council President Martoni and Council Members DeFazio and Rea, as they understand and appreciate the history that Council and the Executive has had with the boards, agencies and authorities,” said County Executive Fitzgerald. “During our time on Council, we worked together to address concerns and made many changes to the Administrative Code and budget process to address those issues. We share those concerns and it was important that I also talk with them before making a decision.”
In the past, County Council enacted legislation that provided that funding for projects would not be provided up front in some cases, requiring the Board to come back to Council to justify its spending and its progress on projects. Council enacted legislation requiring county authorities to report to the county on their M/W/DBE participation. It amended the budget process to require authorities, agencies and boards receiving funding from the county to provide information to the Council annually regarding their budget priorities and how requests for increased allocations to successful priorities and programs. Council also amended the Administrative Code to require a binding resolution for commitment of county funds when an authority is accepting any state or federal funds. The full Council also considered many, many other bills that would have made other changes to strengthen the relationship and responsibility these agencies, board and authorities have to the county.
“The letters were a good idea to keep the boards from going ‘off the rails,’ or from the members thinking that they were in charge of everything,” said Council Member DeFazio. “Now, they are just becoming distractions. Instead of people being asked about their skills, background and experience at the Appointment Review Committee meetings, we talk about these letters.”
Council Member Rea also agreed with the reasons, “We have a fiduciary responsibility to our residents that can be impacted by decisions made by the county’s authorities, boards and agencies. There has to be a coordination of efforts with these members and the policy decisions that County Council and the Executive are making.”
County Executive Fitzgerald stated that when he campaigned for the office, one of the statements he made was that he would ask for resignation letters from individuals that he was appointing to an agency, board or authority. The request was a simple pledge that they would defer to the County and County Council in setting policy for matters that are of area-wide concern.
“Under home rule, we’ve seen many changes – some good and some bad,” said Council President Martoni. “In the bad, we saw rogue boards where members made decisions that impacted the county and its finances or operations, without any conversation or coordination with the county. We made many changes over those 12 years based on what we saw to try to ensure that efforts were coordinated and collaborative. While I agreed with the Executive on his approach, I also think that this has become a distraction for everyone.”
The Executive notified the full Council of this decision immediately before this evening’s Council meeting, and also expressed his support of those members serving on the county’s board, authorities and agencies: “The level of coordination, collaboration and communication that we have with the board members is an important part of county government. These boards have highly credentialed people on them, many of whom are doing excellent work on behalf of our residents. We are confident in the abilities of the people who have been appointed and respect their dedication to the County and the board on which they serve. We are grateful for their service, as well as the time, energy and talents that they volunteer in these roles and look forward to continuing to move Allegheny County forward together.”
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