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Former Washington Co. DA to review Pittsburgh police rules on outside work

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Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, 1:39 p.m.
 

Former Washington County District Attorney Steven M. Toprani will review the Pittsburgh Police Bureau's policies for officers who moonlight or own businesses not regulated by the department, the mayor's office announced Monday.

Toprani, 34, of Monongahela, an attorney with the Downtown firm Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl, served as district attorney from 2007-11.

“I've been called many times throughout my time as DA to look into sensitive issues of police policy and procedure,” he said. “I've looked at everything from police moonlighting as security in concert events to actually doing security work at Marcellus drilling sites.”

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl called for the review of the bureau on Feb. 8 upon learning Chief Nate Harper partnered with four subordinates in forming the private security firm Diverse Public Safety Consultants LLC.

Questions about police side jobs and businesses surfaced last week when FBI agents armed with subpoenas removed records from bureau headquarters in the North Side. Karen Janoski, CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union in Elliott, said in an email Monday to the Tribune-Review that the FBI made copies of “account materials” there.

A federal grand jury is investigating whether Harper was involved in awarding a contract to a shell company set up by his one-time friend Art Bedway, 63, of Robinson.

The FBI seizure at police headquarters included records from the special events office, which oversees officers working off-duty as security guards at businesses, including bars and nightclubs.

Businesses pay officers' wages, plus an administrative fee, and the city deposits the money, amounting to about $7 million annually, in an account for on-duty officers' overtime. Ravenstahl and city fiscal officers, including Controller Michael Lamb, said they don't know how the police department tracks the cash, which is not included in annual budgets.

The administrative fees generate about $700,000 in annual revenue.

Credit union board President Frank Amity said last week that the FBI wanted financial records from an account created by Harper's office. Several names were on the account along with Harper's, Amity said.

City Solicitor Daniel Regan said in an email on Monday that the city recently found out about several accounts at the credit union, some of which were opened in 2004. Harper, 60, of Stanton Heights, who was unavailable for comment, was promoted to chief in 2006.

“To our knowledge, the accounts have been closed, and we are in the process of investigating how funds in the accounts were used and by whom,” Regan said.

Lamb, who began an audit of police accounts last week, said the credit union is not an authorized depository for city money. It would be theft to divert city money to an unauthorized bank account, he said.

“If in the course of our audit we found that there was money directed to a noncity account, we would report that to law enforcement,” Lamb said.

Janoski said several customers have expressed concerns about the security of their accounts, but she assured them they are safe.

Toprani has worked in private practice since he left the district attorney's office. He served as an attorney in former Gov. Ed Rendell's Office of General Counsel, where he assisted the state Department of Public Welfare.

Regan said the city would work out payment terms with Toprani this week.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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