Former Pittsburgh councilman returns to City Hall as consultant
Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Darlene Harris is hiring a former councilman and ally of her political archrival Mayor Bill Peduto as a full-time consultant in her office.
Doug Shields, who vacated his East End seat in December 2011, will make $40,000 to handle office duties that include providing constituent services, researching legislation and drafting policy, said Harris of Spring Hill.
By working as a full-time consultant instead of a city employee, Shields, 60, of Squirrel Hill can continue collecting his city pension of $25,200 a year. His one-year contract and salary are subject to council approval. The contract does not include health, pension or other benefits and will include language permitting Harris to terminate it at will.
Shields, who worked on Peduto's campaign and was closely aligned with him on council, said he accepted the position in Harris' office after a job offer from Peduto did not materialize.
“The mayor has been friends with Doug for years and wishes him well,” Peduto spokesman Tim McNulty said, declining to comment further. Peduto attended conferences in Denver and Louisville on Wednesday.
A political observer said the arrangement could exacerbate dicey relations between Harris and Peduto. Harris opposed Peduto in last year's election and has voted against several of his initiatives, including changes to the city's budget.
“If he didn't follow through with the promise of a job, then it just makes for an unholy alliance,” said Gerald Shuster, professor of political communication at the University of Pittsburgh.
Shields said that was not the case.
“The offer could not be consummated in a timely fashion. Bill did not renege,” Shields said.
Harris said she hired Shields based on his experience in city government. Both denied a political motive.
Shields worked in City Hall for nearly two decades, including a stint as chief of staff to former councilman and late Mayor Bob O'Connor. He served two terms as council representative to District 5, a seat now held by Corey O'Connor, the former mayor's son.
Harris said she did not advertise the opening because council members can hire whomever they choose for their office.
“I did not hire him because he was a politician,” Harris said. “I hired him because he had 12 years' experience working in a council office, and he's a hard worker.”
Harris, who has one other staffer, said her office has been short-staffed since early this year. Council offices typically have at least two staffers.
Each council member gets $105,000 for staff salaries. Shields said he has been doing political and legislative consulting work since leaving office.
“I'm here to help Councilwoman Harris, to basically provide her with advice and serve her agenda,” Shields said.
O'Connor, who has known Shields since childhood, said he will support the hiring. Other eight council members either declined to comment or could not be reached.
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or email@example.com.