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McLaughlin resigns; Trafford taps CPA as interim manager

| Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn
Jeff McLaughlin, pictured here in a March 2013 photo from his first day on the job in Trafford, resigned as borough manager this week.

Jeff McLaughlin stepped aside as Trafford's manager last week with an eye toward a job closer to his background in economic development and community revitalization.

Meanwhile, his replacement, Virginia Finnegan, is looking forward to a shorter commute and joked that “I can see Trafford from my house” in Monroeville.

Trafford's borough management is in transition after McLaughlin resigned on July 1 to pursue other opportunities and as Finnegan wraps up an interim stint later this month as manager in Harmony Township in Beaver County.

After jobs with Uniontown's redevelopment authority and the Mon Valley Initiative, McLaughlin arrived in Trafford in March 2013 as the first borough manager since the mid-1990s. But McLaughlin conceded he might have come in thinking the job duties were a little different from the jack-of-all-trades nature of a borough manager in a small town.

Administrative tasks such as keeping up with the borough's bills and managing the new Manchester Room banquet space left little time for the things he said were more in his “comfort zone,” such as working with the Trafford Economic and Community Development Corp. or applying for grants for the police department.

Council members have credited him for crafting the application that helped Trafford get a $215,120 state grant to refurbish Westmoreland Park.

“It's a pretty amazing little town,” said McLaughlin, 52, of North Braddock. “For it being so small, the people have a lot of pride.”

In Finnegan, Trafford Council is bringing in a longtime municipal administrator and certified public accountant who has worked in several communities, including stints as financial manager in Ross Township and Wilkinsburg. She also serves on the Monroeville Finance Authority.

Finnegan, 69, said she is looking forward to starting in Trafford after being a finalist for the job last year.

“I got really good vibes,” Finnegan said. “It seems to be a very dedicated council that wants to go in a positive direction.”

Finnegan worked in Ross for 11 years until the board there voted 5-4 to fire her in 2006. After she filed a federal lawsuit, a jury decided in October 2008 that township officials sexually discriminated against her.

Among her positions since then was a nine-month role in 2010 as interim manager and finance consultant for Clairton. After her departure, Clairton Council voted 3-0 — with two abstentions — for Finnegan to repay the city for vacation and personal time that officials said she paid herself without their approval.

Finnegan described the situation as a “communication issue” that was “resolved very amicably” when she repaid the city. Clairton's mayor, Rich Lattanzi, and manager, Howard Bednar, did not return phone calls requesting comment.

Asked about the situation in Clairton, Trafford Councilman John Daykon said borough officials “properly vetted” Finnegan and are satisfied with her background. Finnegan will work part time in Trafford without benefits, Daykon said. Finnegan will earn $45 an hour.

“We want to see how it works out and go from there,” he said.

Finnegan's hiring on an interim basis last year in Harmony Township contributed to the building of a criminal case against the township's former secretary, who is accused of stealing $190,000 from the municipal coffers from 2006 to 2013.

Among the financial discrepancies in the township, Finnegan determined that cash payments for sewage and garbage collection were not deposited into township accounts.

Harmony Township Commissioner Paul Kokoski said he would “highly recommend” Finnegan, based on her one year there before the board hired a permanent manager last month.

“She did a very good job for us,” Kokoski said.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-871-2363 or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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