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Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto fires 3 public works managers

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 12:15 a.m.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Former Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss, now deputy director, speaks during a news conference at the City County Building on April 25, 2013.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto fired three public works managers on Tuesday and wavered on the future of Public Safety Director Michael Huss.

Early in the day, Peduto said Huss could be in line to work in a different, unspecified post because of his valuable institutional knowledge. In the afternoon, however, Peduto said Huss was among four finalists for public safety director in his administration.

Huss, 46, of Lincoln Place declined to comment.

“Presently, he is our public safety director,” Peduto said. “He is in the mix for that position.”

The status of Public Works Assistant Directors Robert Palmosina, Dennis James and Kevin Quigley was clearer.

“Their positions have been eliminated from the budget and we need to move forward now with the new restructuring of public works,” Peduto said.

He said department Director Rob Kaczorowski also will leave sometime after the city hires his replacement. Peduto said Kaczorowski could remain for a time to train the new director.

Quigley said he was grateful to Kaczorowski and proud that his “Redd Up” and “Green Up” crews were able to remove trash from vacant lots and secure vacant buildings.

“It was a pleasure to work for the residents of the city for the past 24 years,” Quigley said.

Peduto said he hopes to determine the fate of the public safety directorship by the end of next week and the public works position a week later.

Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, who heads the Public Works Committee, said she suspects the firings were politically motivated. All three employees have served as ward chairmen for the Pittsburgh Democratic Committee.

Peduto, a Democrat, said it was an unfair characterization.

“Within any administration comes new directors and assistant directors,” he said. “Certainly, (President) Barack Obama did not keep George Bush's and (Gov.) Tom Corbett didn't keep Ed Rendell's.”

Huss has worked for the city since 2005, when former Mayor Tom Murphy recruited him from Johnstown to be Pittsburgh's fire chief, a position he held until Peduto, as a city councilman, recommended he become public safety director.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl promoted Huss to the post in September 2007.

He oversaw the city's handling of the Group of 20 economic summit in 2009, merged Wilkinsburg's fire department into the city and established a swift water rescue training program for public safety employees after a flash flood on Washington Boulevard killed four people in August 2011.

Staff writer Margaret Harding contributed. Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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