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Games politicians play: Fontana headed back to SEA

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
State Sen. Wayne Fontana is chairman of the Sports & Exhibition Authority. He said he often gives away free tickets he receives to sporting events at Heinz Field, PNC Park and Consol Energy Center.

The political gamesmanship between Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl appears to have reached the lightning round.

State Sen. Wayne Fontana, whom Ravenstahl booted from the Sports & Exhibition Authority just after the board of directors' last meeting, might be back on the SEA board shortly after its next meeting, thanks to a pending appointment by Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald plans to send Fontana's nomination to County Council on Thursday to fill the SEA seat ex-Sen. Sean Logan recently vacated, Fitzgerald spokeswoman Amie Downs confirmed.

County Council could approve the appointment as soon as April 16, five days after the SEA's next scheduled meeting.

Ravenstahl declined to comment.

Fitzgerald said he appointed Fontana because Fontana's Senate district includes all four SEA-owned properties; he was elected board chairman three times; he holds an influential position in state government; and he “is known as a consensus-builder.”

“I appreciate the county executive showing the confidence in me to put me on the board,” Fontana said.

The mayor and county executive get three appointments each and one joint appointment to the seven-member board, which oversees the North Shore sports stadiums, Uptown hockey arena and David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

Logan, a UPMC executive, resigned about the time Ravenstahl kicked Fontana off the board on March 15.

Ravenstahl's chief of staff, Yarone Zober, said at the time that Fontana's removal had nothing to do with Fontana's endorsement four days earlier of City Councilman Bill Peduto, a Ravenstahl foe, for mayor.

Ravenstahl, who is not running for re-election, appointed his aide and former campaign manager Paul McKrell to take Fontana's place.

Fitzgerald backs Peduto — and unlike Fontana, he didn't wait for Ravenstahl to drop out of the race to support him publicly.

“I guess if there's a way to show the public that you two are at odds, that's the way to do it,” said Gerald Shuster, political communication professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

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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