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Qualifications of Peduto nominee for building inspection chief come up short

| Thursday, March 6, 2014, 11:48 p.m.
Maura Kennedy is Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's choice to be the city's new Bureau of Building Inspection chief.
Maura Kennedy is Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's choice to be the city's new Bureau of Building Inspection chief.

Mayor Bill Peduto's nominee for chief of the Bureau of Building Inspection comes to Pittsburgh with a reputation as an innovator, yet she lacks the education and professional licensing credentials the city sought in its candidates.

Maura Kennedy, 32, is credited with championing online access to public records and working to improve property maintenance when she most recently was executive director of development services for Philadelphia's Department of Licenses and Inspections.

Peduto's Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin said the city chose Kennedy because of her qualifications and reputation, although council members expressed concerns about her credentials and how the city filled the job.

Kennedy's appointment is contingent upon her obtaining a state-level building code official certification as outlined in the city's job description.

“What she did in Philadelphia is exactly what the mayor wants to see,” Acklin said.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris said she has not seen Kennedy's resume, but wants to make sure whoever is in the position is well-qualified.

“You have a lot of responsibility when it comes to building inspection,” she said. “People's lives are at stake.”

Acklin said Kennedy is scheduled to take her certification test in April, and would come to Pittsburgh to be confirmed by council as soon as she passes. Until then, BBI will be supervised by an interim director, he said.

Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith said she is concerned the requirements in the job description may have kept other people from applying.

Kail-Smith said she met with the Peduto administration Thursday and discussed appointments made through Talent City, an online effort of Pittsburgh's foundations to help the city recruit and screen job applicants.

“I think that having a conversation about some of these appointments ahead of time would be more helpful to all of us,” she said.

A person with a building-code certification can legally enforce the state's Uniform Constriction Code. John Jennings, outgoing chief of BBI, has such a certification, according to state records.

The BBI chief job description lists as minimum qualifications a bachelor's degree “in engineering, architecture or a related field from an accredited institution,” with “an advanced degree in a related field preferred” plus the certification. Kennedy has a bachelor's degree from Cornell University in government, and is pursuing a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The job description also listed a Pennsylvania license as an architect or civil engineer as a minimum qualification, neither of which Kennedy has.

Tim McNulty, spokesman for the mayor, said Kennedy made clear in the application process she did not have the degrees listed. Still, she was the highest-rated candidate “by far.”

Following Kennedy's nomination in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter released a statement calling Kennedy an “innovator” in city government, who spearheaded efforts to put department data online and aggressively pursue code-enforcement standards to improve property maintenance.

Kennedy would make $100,889 annually in Pittsburgh.

Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or mdaniels@tribweb.com.

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