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Mayor-elect Peduto invites Pittsburgh residents to apply for administration jobs

| Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, 10:27 a.m.

A key person is missing from the cabinet of Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto, who said he will fill the position of public safety director through a national search by the end of the year.

That was not the original plan.

“We have a candidate in mind who isn't ready and isn't sure if they would take the position,” Peduto said during a news conference on Thursday to announce that he has appointed seven members of his executive team.

He said he will conduct a national search for a public safety director who will oversee the police, fire, emergency medical services, building inspection and animal works departments.

Mike Huss, a former city fire chief, holds the position, and Peduto said he has encouraged him to apply to keep the job. Huss did not return a request for comment.

A third of the city's $470 million operating budget this year funds public safety.

“We're looking for the best talent,” Peduto said. “If we can't find somebody who fills that position better than director Huss, then we'll hire director Huss.”

The city also needs a police chief.

Peduto said he believes the search for a new chief, which also will be national, will be a longer process.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl forced former police Chief Nate Harper to resign in February and named assistant chief of administration Regina McDonald as acting chief.

A federal grand jury indicted Harper in March on charges that he diverted more than $70,000 from the police department's special events office into a private account and spent $31,986 of the money on personal expenses.

Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 President Mike LaPorte was not available for comment on the openings.

Darrin Kelly, a trustee with International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1, said the fire union has not been consulted on the selection of a public safety chief in the past.

Peduto said he will use a program called Talent City to fill public safety and other at-will positions. Through an online link to the program, the city will advertise job openings and invite residents' suggestions. All positions will be posted at www.talent-city.org by mid-November.

Peduto sent letters on Friday to existing directors, at-will employees and members of boards, authorities and commissions explaining the process and inviting them to reapply for their jobs, according to a statement by Kevin Acklin, his chief of staff.

“Everyone will be given an opportunity to apply. Decisions will be made based on talent and nobody will be evaluated based upon who they supported at the ballot box,” Peduto said.

Before choosing Huss as public safety director in 2007, Ravenstahl courted controversy in October 2006 by trying to name then-operations director Dennis Regan, who had no experience in public safety, to the job. Peduto opposed Regan's nomination and recommended Huss.

Elizabeth Township police Chief Robert W. McNeilly Jr. headed the Pittsburgh department for a decade and was tapped for the job in April 1996 after a national search by the Police Executive Research Forum. He was one of six internal candidates.

He said Friday that he likes the idea of a national search for public safety director.

“Even if they do choose locally, you get to see who the candidates are and what they have to offer,” McNeilly said.

During an interview with Tribune-Review editors and reporters Oct. 9, Peduto said he is looking for someone like Eliot Ness, the law enforcement agent who enforced Prohibition in Chicago as head of “The Untouchables.”

“It's got to be somebody who is such high integrity that people are afraid if they steal a Steeler banner after a Super Bowl that they'll get caught and end up in trouble,” Peduto said.

Trib Total Media staff writer Bob Bauder contributed to this report. Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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