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Harper to stay off job for now

| Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 11:11 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Former Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper will plead guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges on Oct. 18, according to a judge’s order issued on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013.

Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper will be off the job for an undetermined amount of time, police brass confirmed Thursday.

Deputy Police Chief Paul Donaldson issued a memo to the entire police bureau saying, “In addition to my normal duties I will continue to serve as the Acting Chief of Police until the return of Chief Harper.”

Harper, 59, of Stanton Heights has been out of the office because of his mother's death.

“As far as I know, Chief Harper has not stepped aside and is still taking care of the affairs of his mother,” said police spokeswoman Diane Richard.

Richard said it is normal procedure for the deputy chief to send out notifications of who is in charge while the chief is away. She said she did not know when Harper would return.

She said police officials initially expected him to return this week, “so another notification was sent out saying that (Donaldson) was continuing as acting chief.”

Donaldson's email was news to City Council President Darlene Harris.

“I haven't heard that,” Harris said. “I talked to Donaldson around 4 or 5 this afternoon and nothing was said then.”

A federal grand jury is investigating whether Harper, who has been chief since 2006, was involved in awarding a contract to a shell company set up by his one-time friend Art Bedway.

Bedway, 63, of Robinson owns Carnegie-based Victory Security. In November, federal prosecutors accused Bedway of conspiring with a former city employee and unidentified others to set up Alpha Outfitters to win a contract to install computers in police vehicles.

Harper has not been charged and has said the police bureau “had no involvement in securing this contract or making any payments.”

The city paid more than $327,000 to Alpha Outfitters between 2007 and 2009 for work done on police vehicles, according to federal prosecutors. A grand jury charged Bedway with bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud, saying he and former city employee Christine Kebr, 56, of Castle Shannon, conspired in 2006 with others to form Alpha Outfitters as if it were a female-owned business so he could bid on a contract.

This week the grand jury heard testimony from Bedway and Kebr, who spent about 30 minutes in the grand jury room. She pleaded guilty in December to helping Bedway.

Harper has described Bedway as a former friend. The chief said his wife, Cynthia Harper, 58, once worked as a consultant with Kathleen Bowman, co-owner of Victory Security.

Harper joined the department in 1977 and is set to make $105,000 this year.

Neither Joanna Doven, press secretary for Ravenstahl, nor Public Safety Director Michael Huss could be reached for comment.

Sgt. Michael LaPorte, president of Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, Fraternal Order of Police, could not be reached for comment.

Jill King Greenwood is an assistant metro editor for Trib Total Media. Staff writers Bobby Kerlik, Margaret Harding and Michael Hasch contributed to this report.

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