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Smurphy claims Steelers' save

| Sunday, Nov. 26, 2006

FORMER MAYOR'S CLAIM. Talk about your revisionist history.

Former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy essentially and inaccurately claimed last week that his efforts to build Heinz Field kept the Steelers from leaving town.

Yes, it was news to us, too.

Murphy was quoted extensively in a San Jose Mercury News story about the Oakland Athletics baseball team's impending move to a new ballpark promised by Fremont, Calif.

According to the ex-mayor, the Steelers had one foot out the door before he circumvented the will of the voters and went ahead with the development of Heinz Field, PNC Park and a new city convention center.

"The referendum to pay for the development was defeated by 70 percent. But we decided we're going to do it anyway, because the Steelers were important to Pittsburgh in terms of our psyche and in terms of who we were," Murphy said. "We were a rust-belt, declining city and we were losing our Steelers."

That wasn't exactly the case, unless you count some extremely preliminary saber-rattling from the Steelers about possibly moving to -- gasp! -- Washington County if the team didn't get a new North Shore stadium.

Then again, reality never was Murphy's strong point. It must be that famous vision thing of his -- seeing things that no rational person could.

SHERIFF'S MACING CHARGES. Someone at WPXI-TV was a little confused last week in reporting retired Allegheny County Sheriff Pete DeFazio was going to plead guilty to macing charges.

On WPXI's Web site, the story ran as follows:

"Sources told Channel 11 News that former Allegheny County Sheriff Pete DeFazio will plead guilty to one count of criminally using mace.

"DeFazio has not admitted directly to the use of mace, but that as sheriff he should have known it was going on in his office, officials said."

Darn straight. How could DeFazio have been oblivious to the cause of all the teary eyes in his office -- especially when he used the spray for criminal intent?

WPXI updated the story a few minutes later to reflect that DeFazio actually was pleading guilty to a charge of macing, a misdemeanor related to pressure on his employees to contribute to his political campaign.

NO VICTORY FOR HABAY. Former state Rep. Jeff Habay , awaiting trial on 21 criminal counts, has lost his new job.

Habay, 40, recently told Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus that he was working for Carnegie-based Victory Security, a private security provider.

However, Victory Security President Richard Hinch said last week that Habay had been terminated. He declined to say why and when Habay was let go, or in what capacity he was working.

Habay told Nauhaus he was making $1,200 a month from the company.

Habay is under house arrest pending an appeal of his December conviction on a felony conflict-of-interest charge. The Shaler Republican had served about two months of a six- to 12-month sentence in a South Side alternative housing facility before he was released Oct. 3.

The former politician has until Dec. 15 to find an attorney or he could be forced to represent himself in his second trial. He is charged with possessing or using a facsimile weapon of mass destruction, conflict of interest, harassing political opponents and using staff workers to do campaign work on state time.

Habay did not return a phone call seeking comment.

PARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW. The official state Senate calendar broke from its tradition of being dull as dirt to pay tribute to several departing pay-jackers.

Across the top of the calendar, in large type, was a brief excerpt from "Auld Lang Syne": "Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot" and mug shots of the following senators:

• President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer , R-Altoona, one of the masterminds of last year's repealed legislative pay raises of as much as 54 percent.

• Senate Majority Leader David "Chip" Brightbill, R-Lebanon, one of Jubelirer's cohorts in the pay-jacking fiasco.

• A trio of Republicans who voted for the salary hikes and then decided to retire rather than face the voters' wrath: Noah Wenger of Lancaster, Charles Lemmond of Luzerene County and Joe Conti of Bucks County.

The photos surrounded the caption, "Until We Meet Again, Good Luck, Good Health, God Bless You."

To which we would add: Good riddance, too.

MONEY PIT. Former Rochester Area School District Superintendent Dr. Stephen Whisdosh was livid at word now-ousted state House Minority Whip Mike Veon, the Beaver County Democrat, secured a $1.2 million grant to install artificial turf on the Rams' field.

Whisdosh, now superintendent at Ligonier Valley in Westmoreland County, said the football complex had just had a $1 million upgrade in the 1990s including new bleachers, a new pressbox, underground sprinklers and a new field drainage system. Whisdosh served as superintendent at Rochester from 1992 until 1996.

"I don't think we can stand by any longer and watch these kind of things happen. This is intolerable ... this is immoral," Whisdosh said.

Whisdosh said he plans to express his feelings to legislators on a trip to Harrisburg next month.

Veon was ousted by voters four days after he secured the booty for his hometown school district.

GRIPING . Speaking of tax dollars, some Westmoreland County employees were griping about not receiving their $250 signing bonus in a timely manner under terms of the new contract.

In the SEIU newsletter, some stewards describing the bonus as "moolah" reported county human resources Director Chuck Dominick blamed the delay on a computer error that is now corrected.

The newsletter also disclosed that some Area on Aging care managers and part-time staffers have filed a grievance over whether they are eligible for the bonus.

LAST GASP. A flurry of last-minute proposals from outgoing legislators indicates that many intend to return shortly to a ballot near you.

Take Virginia's outgoing U.S. Sen. George Allen. After the election where the Republican lost to Democrat Jim Webb, Allen introduced a bill that would allow citizens to carry firearms in national parks as long as there are no state prohibitions.

The legislation is seen by many as currying favor with a powerful voting sector that Allen hopes to tap sometime in the future. Many groups, like the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, are already on board with Allen's proposal.

-- compiled by Tribune-Review staff

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