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Fitzgerald asked board to fire former Allegheny County health director, documents show

Saturday, May 10, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald asked health board members to fire Dr. Bruce Dixon, the longtime county health director, in March 2012 because the men had policy differences, county lawyers disclosed on Friday.

Fitzgerald and Dixon disagreed on the direction and management of the Health Department, according to court documents signed by county Solicitor Andrew Szefi. They are the county's latest attempt to undermine a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by Dixon before he died in 2013.

Attorney Virginia Cook, who represents the Dixon estate, said the filing marks the first time the county confirmed under oath that Fitzgerald directed Dixon's firing.

County spokeswoman Amie Downs said county officials would not discuss the case.

“I don't think it's been any secret to anybody that Mr. Fitzgerald didn't want Dr. Dixon to continue as director,” Cook said.

The lawsuit argues that Fitzgerald did not have the authority to fire Dixon.

Dixon long contended he probably lost his job because of politics, but Dr. Lee Harrison, the health board's chairman, has said he felt no political pressure to fire Dixon. Harrison could not be reached late Friday.

The county contends that Dixon was an at-will employee who served at the pleasure of the board and had no standing to sue.

County Common Pleas Judge Christine A. Ward last month overruled eight county objections to the litigation, allowing the case to proceed despite Dixon's death.

Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.




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