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Mayor pushes to have another Monroeville manager ousted

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By Kyle Lawson
Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 9:27 a.m.
 

A Monroeville manager might be in jeopardy of being ousted — again.

Mayor Greg Erosenko presented a series of grievances to Monroeville Council this month that he said warrants the removal of manager Lynette McKinney, based on the municipal home rule charter. The charter allows for the removal of a municipal manager “with” or “without cause.”

Council would have to vote on the proposal.

Erosenko said that despite a choppy history with a majority of council, he might be able to get the votes to oust McKinney, who was promoted to interim manager at the end of January and promptly demoted police Chief Doug Cole to sergeant “without cause.”

In March, council removed the “interim” tag from her title and set a base salary of $88,808.

“Some of this stuff is pretty serious,” Erosenko said of his complaints.

Arbitration absence

Erosenko said McKinney cost the municipality $1,400 when she failed to appear for scheduled arbitration between Cole and the municipality. Cole filed a lawsuit over his demotion in February, and the contractual portion of the lawsuit was moved to arbitration by an Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas judge.

Erosenko said that although McKinney said she would be out of town June 7, she was at the municipal building that day.

The arbitrator billed the municipality $1,400 for the canceled meeting.

“If she wasn't prepared, I would have understood that,” Erosenko said. “But to say you're out of town, and then you're at the municipal building?”

Erosenko also accused McKinney of releasing too many details to reporters about a recent investigation by the Allegheny County District Attorney's office. He said if the district attorney's office won't comment, then neither should municipal officials.

“We've never had a manager ever say there was or was not an investigation,” Erosenko said.

Harassment?

McKinney, who labeled Erosenko's charges false and misleading, defended herself via email.

“While some may disagree with a specific decision, all of my decisions were made based on information that I, as manager, had at the time that the decision was made. Occasionally, council or the public may disagree with a decision, but they may not have all of the information that I may have on the topic,” she wrote

“It demonstrates once again his continued harassment.”

Councilwoman Lois Drumheller said Erosenko's list is another example of harassment. She said Erosenko “targeted” McKinney and that his complaints are “pretty selective.”

She said Erosenko is reaching for ways to remove McKinney.

McKinney filed a harassment complaint against Erosenko last year, when she worked as an administrative assistant whose workspace was between the offices of Erosenko and former manager Jeff Silka.

She accused Erosenko of threatening her.

Though Erosenko said McKinney has cost the municipality money by missing the meeting, she said that overall, she has saved money.

McKinney said she has performed the jobs of both municipal manager and municipal secretary simultaneously since February and did the same when she was interim manager in 2012.

“I have done that for less compensation than any of the last three managers, and I have done it without the assistance of a seasoned secretary/assistant,” McKinney wrote.

Attorney issues

Erosenko also questioned the ethics of a recent lunch between McKinney and an attorney representing Monroeville's property-tax collector, Pat Fulkerson, who clashed with officials at recent meetings over a contractual issue involving business tax collection.

Some officials said municipal solicitor Bruce Dice should have been present at the lunch, but an attorney from the Harrisburg nonprofit Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association disagreed. If the discussion involves municipal business, the manager can meet with whomever she wants, association attorney Melissa Melewsky said. Dice, too, said that based on the information he had received, the meeting was not inappropriate.

Councilmen Nick Gresock, Jim Johns and Steve Duncan have questioned the cost of an ongoing investigation by Pittsburgh law firm Dickie, McCamey and Chilcote.

Dice suggested hiring an outside law firm to conduct a preliminary investigation of a potential health-privacy violation in Monroeville because health-privacy laws are not his specialty.

The law firm's April invoice shows charges for items that appear to be unrelated to the health-information investigation.

It includes a line item for the legal research of whether Erosenko had the right to veto the hiring of special legal counsel. Some said it was an issue that could have been handled by the municipal solicitor.

Political tides

Some have speculated that McKinney will be removed if — as seems likely — a new majority takes over on council after the November general election. Drumheller and McKinney-supporter Diane Allison lost in their efforts to win party nominations for re-election in the May 21 primary and a third supporter — Clarence Ramsey — did not seek re-election.

Bernhard Erb, a fourth McKinney supporter on council, won the Republican nomination for mayor to challenge Erosenko this fall but has since withdrawn from the race.

McKinney is guaranteed a six-month severance package if she is ousted.

The previous two managers left under less-than-cordial circumstances and received severance packages. Tim Little received about $63,000 in severance pay when he resigned amidst pressure from a majority of council in January. Jeff Silka received a $67,592 severance package when he resigned in January amidst pressure from the same majority of council.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

 

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