Fate of Allegheny County real estate office uncertain as manager leaves for Peduto staff
By Aaron Aupperlee
Published: Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Not even Allegheny County Real Estate Manager Valerie McDonald Roberts knows what will happen to her job when she leaves to join Mayor-elect Bill Peduto's administration this month.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Roberts said. “I'd rather leave it in the hands of the county manager and the county executive.”
County administrators, including Manager William McKain, would not elaborate on what might happen to her position or the department. McKain is evaluating the department and will make decisions after his review, county spokeswoman Amie Downs wrote in an email.
Peduto tapped Roberts, 58, of Churchill, a stalwart of city and county politics, to serve as his chief urban affairs officer. She will stay at the county until mid-January, Downs wrote.
McKain could recommend county Executive Rich Fitzgerald appoint a successor, essentially keeping the position and department unchanged. The department could merge into an office such as the Office of Property Assessments, or the county manager or court system could take over its responsibilities.
“I don't know that there's any urgent need to do anything with it right now,” said Jake Haulk, president of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a Castle Shannon policy group. “If she's doing a job that's fairly unique and she's efficient, you may not want to change it. But it should be looked at.”
The Department of Real Estate records deeds, mortgages and property transfers. It is a storehouse of maps and property records available to the public, and it swears in notaries. The department has a $2.95 million budget for 2014, making it one of the county's smallest.
Roberts' county salary is $100,312. She oversees a department of 54 employees. Her post in Peduto's administration will pay $102,500.
Former county Executive Jim Roddey, a Republican, said it might be time to scrap the Department of Real Estate as a stand-alone office. He was not sure where he would shift the department's responsibilities but mentioned the county manager's office, the courts or the Office of Property Assessments. Roberts' position should be eliminated, he said.
“And if they don't, it's probably a signal that they are returning a political favor,” Roddey said.
Roberts was hesitant to comment on the future of the office, saying, “This office is part of county government. You cannot do away with the recording office.”
The department survived the county's row office consolidation with few changes. In 2005, Allegheny County voters narrowly approved a referendum to consolidate and eliminate some of the county's elected row offices. The referendum merged the clerk of courts, register of wills, prothonotary and two jury commissioners under an appointed director of court records. The elected coroner became an appointed medical examiner. The elected recorder of deeds became an appointed real estate manager.
Former county Executive Dan Onorato, a Democrat responsible for the consolidation, did not return calls seeking comment.
Roberts was elected in 2001 to be the recorder of deeds and appointed real estate manager after the consolidation. A public critic of the consolidation, she said the change resulted in some positive outcomes. The Department of Real Estate works more closely and more effectively with the rest of the county, she said. Communication is more seamless.
“It takes away that barrier, that perception type of barrier, that it is the rows and them,” Roberts said of the consolidation. “Now we're all part of the same team.”
Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
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.
- One dead, one wounded in shooting at Chartiers party
- Patients denied as donor organs discarded
- Film tax credits bill would bump up state budget
- Castle Shannon man accused of crashing way down Pittsburgh street
- Pope Francis inspires incredible optimism
- Bethel Park man to receive degree from Pitt he earned 64 years ago
- Newsmaker: Rosalind Ross
- Man found fatally shot in Larimer a mile away from Homewood peace march
- Bullied South Fayette student’s case prompts wiretap overhaul legislation
- South Fayette parents express dissatisfaction with handling of bullying
- Legal experts question prosecuting South Fayette boy for recording bullies