Share This Page

Ex-board member lays resignation on Alcosan 'surprises'

| Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, 9:50 p.m.

Two board members abruptly quit the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority's board, with one saying it was because she was continually “blindsided” by administrators acting without board approval.

Theresa Kail-Smith, a Pittsburgh councilwoman representing the West End, and Kristen Baginski, director of alumni relations for Point Park University, resigned their board posts in July. It is a critical time for the authority: Alcosan is preparing to spend about $2.8 billion during the next 20 years on a plan to keep raw sewage out of rivers.

“I no longer felt comfortable serving while continually being blindsided by actions unbeknownst to the board until after the fact,” Kail-Smith wrote in her resignation letter.

In an interview on Thursday, she declined to be more specific, but said “it happened more than once, and I just felt I didn't want to serve on a board where I'm being surprised by things when I walk in the door.”

Baginski did not return phone calls.

“It was just a feeling we had that we didn't feel comfortable,” Kail-Smith said.

Alcosan Executive Director Arletta Scott Williams did not respond to a request for comment.

Board Chairman Harry Readshaw said he was surprised by Kail-Smith's resignation and unaware of her concerns until he received her letter.

“She was never specific to me personally with any those concerns,” said Readshaw, a Democratic state representative from Carrick. “I don't know what she's making reference to. I never had any personal conversation with her.”

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl appointed Kail-Smith and Baginski to the board. His office did not return a phone call.

Readshaw said the authority has always operated professionally.

“I think over the years it's been run like a business, which it should be. It always has those that reside in the service area and who pay the service fee in mind,” Readshaw said.

Readshaw said he suspects Baginski's resignation was due to a career change.

“She just didn't have the time to devote to (the board),” he said.

City Controller Michael Lamb, whose office is auditing Alcosan, said Kail-Smith told him of her resignation, but did not say why she resigned. Lamb is following up on his 2009 audit that found Alcosan awarded no-bid engineering and construction management contracts without documenting the hiring process, which is required by its own policy and state law.

“That's certainly something we're looking at,” he said.

Barry Kauffman, executive director of the government watchdog group Pennsylvania Common Cause, said board resignations should raise red flags.

“There's probably some fire beneath the smoke,” he said.

Kail-Smith had two years left on her five-year term, and Baginski had four years remaining. Their spots on the seven-member board remain vacant.

Bob Bauder and Aaron Aupperlee are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Reach Bauder at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com. Reach Aupperlee at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.