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Pittsburgh police officials mum on suspensions

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By Margaret Harding and Bobby Kerlik
Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Acting Pittsburgh police Chief Regina McDonald on Friday cited confidentiality rules for personnel issues in refusing to discuss the suspension of three workers tied to outside work in the department.

Public Safety Director Michael Huss warned against linking the action to the outside work.

“Don't make that assumption,” Huss said. “We made personnel moves we believed we had to make, and there may be more in the future. There are none planned now, but don't connect those two.”

On her second day at the helm, McDonald reshuffled supervision of the personnel and finance office in which two of the suspended employees worked, and which FBI agents visited as part of an investigation into police spending.

Officer Tonya Montgomery-Ford, 43, of New Homestead worked in the chief's office, and civilian clerks Tamara Davis, 46, and Kim Montgomery, both of the Hill District, worked in the personnel and finance office. Davis, Montgomery-Ford, Cmdr. Eric Holmes and Sgt. Barry Budd formed a company called Diverse Public Safety Consultants LLC with then-Chief Nate Harper.

The discovery of that company prompted an outside review of police policies and criticism from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who on Wednesday ousted Harper as the federal investigation grew.

McDonald said the paid suspensions would last until the FBI finishes its probe. She would not say why neither Holmes nor Budd was suspended.

“This is currently an internal personnel matter and part of the ongoing federal investigation,” police spokeswoman Diane Richard said. “No additional info will be provided at this time.”

Warner Macklin III, who is speaking for Davis and Montgomery-Ford, said FBI agents questioned Davis on Thursday afternoon.

“What they discussed, I do not know, and she's not at liberty to reveal to me,” he said.

The FBI has not approached Montgomery-Ford, he said.

Montgomery could not be reached.

Montgomery, 59, is Montgomery-Ford's mother. Corporation filings link her to a company that did catering work for the city.

McDonald said Harper in 2010 ordered personnel and finance to report directly to him instead of her when she oversaw the administration branch.

She said she did not know the reason for the move.

She ordered the office back under the assistant chief's supervision effective Monday. More changes could come next week.

She named Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki as acting chief of administration and Lt. Kevin Kraus acting commander of major crimes.

McDonald said she had not met with former Washington County District Attorney Stephen Toprani, tapped by Ravenstahl to examine police policies for officers who moonlight or own side businesses. Toprani said he will meet with the mayor's office next week to determine the scope of his review.

“I'm primarily focusing on city policies, the circumstances surrounding the city funding and hopefully developing city reforms. Part of the intention is to determine if they have policy violations and if not, how to strengthen city policies,” said Toprani, 34, of Monongahela.

It's conceivable the review could take weeks or months, he said.

Margaret Harding and Bobby Kerlik are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Harding can be reached at 412-380-8519 or Kerlik can be reached at 412-380-7886 or Staff writer Jeremy Boren contributed to this report.

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