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FOP: Acting Chief McDonald aware of secret bank accounts

| Saturday, April 6, 2013, 12:20 a.m.

The head of the Pittsburgh police union questioned on Friday the leadership and judgment of Acting Chief Regina McDonald, saying she should have known years ago about alleged malfeasance involving secret bank accounts.

Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 representatives have been asking about the accounts since 2006, said FOP President Michael LaPorte. That's the year McDonald became assistant chief of administration, which LaPorte said oversees money collected from businesses that hire off-duty officers.

Former Chief Nate Harper faces federal charges that he misused about $70,000 in city money by moving it to accounts at the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union.

Police spokeswoman Diane Richard said McDonald told her that she was “not going to make any statements on those accusations.”

Administrators under the past three police chiefs — Robert McNeilly Jr., Dom Costa and Harper — dodged FOP questions about how much money the department collected in fees from the businesses, LaPorte said.

“We've been bringing it up since 2006,” LaPorte said. In an October meeting of the labor-management committee, LaPorte said, McDonald was asked directly about how much money was there. She dismissed the question, saying FOP members don't understand how it works, he said.

“They're all blaming Harper because he's not here to defend himself,” LaPorte said. “They were all here. He operated as an island? That's a joke.”

McDonald and the rank-and-file have had an uneasy relationship since Mayor Luke Ravenstahl forced Harper's resignation and appointed her on Feb. 20. It worsened after two high-profile decisions: one barring police from working off-duty shifts at strip clubs and another putting Detective Frank Rende in an administrative office, a detail with no overtime, after an altercation on St. Patrick's Day.

LaPorte said both decisions were reactions to public perception.

He questioned why Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson, who occupies the department's No. 2 spot, did not become acting chief. Donaldson has said he was never given a “concrete reason” why he did not get the job.

When asked what Ravenstahl should do, LaPorte demurred. Asked if he trusts McDonald's judgment in running the department, LaPorte said, “Absolutely not. I don't think she has good decision-making skills at all. She shouldn't be there.”

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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