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Acting Pittsburgh police Chief Regina McDonald denies knowing about secret accounts

| Monday, April 8, 2013, 1:30 p.m.

Acting Pittsburgh police Chief Regina McDonald on Monday denied accusations from the head of the police union that she should have known about alleged malfeasance involving secret bank accounts.

McDonald, in a statement, said it was “untrue” that Fraternal Order of Police representatives asked her about the accounts as early as 2006, when she became assistant chief of administration. FOP Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 President Michael LaPorte made the accusation in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Friday.

The dispute centers on McDonald's knowledge of bank accounts funded with the department's $3.85-an-hour cost recovery fee, which businesses pay to have off-duty officers provide private security. Former Chief Nate Harper faces federal charges that he misused about $70,000 from the fee by moving it to accounts at the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union.

LaPorte said administrators have been dodging FOP questions about how much money the department collected.

“I don't recall him ever asking me about the overtime account, which is the account the premium pay for officers working secondary employment and paid through the city was deposited,” McDonald said in a written statement.

“If he wanted to know how much money was brought in monthly/yearly from the cost recovery fee, we could have provided that information to him. He never asked,” McDonald said. “If he wanted to know the total breakdown of the overtime account, he should have contacted the Finance Department.”

LaPorte said it was “unfathomable” for her to say she wasn't in charge of the account.

“She was the administrative chief,” LaPorte said on Monday. “She absolutely has oversight.”

City Council is considering legislation to make the accounts more transparent. “The accountability for these funds was not my responsibility. It was the responsibility of the Finance Office and the Controller's Office, of which I had no oversight,” McDonald said.

Mayoral spokeswoman Marissa Doyle referred comment to Tony Pokora, assistant director of the Department of Finance, who did not respond. Public Safety Director Michael Huss and Councilwoman Theresa Kail Smith, who chairs the public safety committee, did not return messages seeking comment.

LaPorte said McDonald was asked directly about the accounts during a labor-management committee meeting in October, but dismissed the questions.

McDonald's contention that the account wasn't her responsibility demonstrated a lack of leadership, LaPorte said.

“That's why this department is so in need of someone to take charge,” LaPorte said.

McDonald initially declined to comment on LaPorte's accusations when the Trib contacted department spokeswoman Diane Richard on Friday.

Despite the criticism from LaPorte, and that of other officers who expressed unhappiness at McDonald's appointment to replace Harper after he was ousted Feb. 20, McDonald denied there was an uneasy relationship between her and officers.

“The only uneasy relationship appears to be on Sgt. LaPorte's part,” McDonald said. “Since the day that I was appointed, he has made it clear that he did not support my selection as acting chief.”

Staff writer Margaret Harding contributed to this report. Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or mwereschagin@tribweb.com.

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