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City of Pittsburgh short of funds to pay 2 administrators

Bob Bauder
| Sunday, June 29, 2014, 10:40 p.m.
Curtiss Porter, chief education and neighborhood reinvestment officer in Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's cabinet, stepped down Friday, Jan. 16, 2015.
Curtiss Porter, chief education and neighborhood reinvestment officer in Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's cabinet, stepped down Friday, Jan. 16, 2015.
Valerie McDonald-Roberts, chief urban affairs officer at Pittsburgh's Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment
Valerie McDonald-Roberts, chief urban affairs officer at Pittsburgh's Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is counting on a $233,000 contribution from foundations to help pay the salaries of two top members of his administration and other employees — but he doesn't have the money or a signed agreement to get it from potential donors, city officials said.

When he took office nearly six months ago, Peduto established the Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment, saying that foundations would pay half the salaries of its two top administrators: Valerie McDonald-Roberts, chief urban affairs officer, and Curtiss Porter, chief education and neighborhood reinvestment officer.

Combined, their salaries are $205,086 a year. The city's 2014 budget lists 10 positions in the bureau, including the two chiefs. The full-time salaries total $637,660.

Peduto spokesman Tim McNulty acknowledged that city foundations have not agreed to pay part of the salaries, even though the city's budgets anticipates a $233,000 payment.

“We're in regular contact with foundations,” he said. “We still plan on getting reimbursement for that money, and everything is still on track.”

City Controller Michael Lamb said the administration should have had a firm agreement in place before it budgeted the foundation cash.

“Now we're into June and we don't have anything close to an agreement with anybody,” he said. “I think you give a new mayor a little leeway on that kind of thing ... but come 2015, unless they have an agreement on the table, they should not budget for that.”

The mayor hopes to secure as much as $20 million a year from nonprofits through payments in lieu of taxes, but he has not brokered that agreement either.

Peduto has close relationships with people at local charities, McNulty noted.

The Pittsburgh Foundation, Heinz Endowments and Richard King Mellon Foundation anted $275,000 for Talent City, an employee recruitment program that helped identify and evaluate candidates for high-level appointments within Peduto's administration, including directors who run the city's planning department, Bureau of Building Inspection and the public safety director. The program was envisioned as a way to encourage the city to hire well-qualified applicants based on their merits rather than their political connections.

McNulty has said that the mayor is meeting with the heads of large universities and nonprofit organizations to convince them that helping the city pay for needed capital upgrades is in their best interests.

The Pittsburgh Public Service Fund, an organization of nonprofits established to negotiate yearly payments to the city, disbanded in April once it made its final $1.8 million payment from 2013.

Nonprofit payments to the city totaled about $2.6 million a year for 2012 and 2013.

Scott B. Leff, senior consultant for organizational development and strategy at the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University, said foundations typically want an idea of how their money will be spent before making a commitment.

“They would want to see how the money is going to be used and what outcomes are expected to result,” he said. “If it fits their foundation giving guidelines, I would think they might consider it.”

He said nonprofits would want examples of how the money would improve the city.

“From a generic point of view they are very concerned about the well-being of the city,” Leff said.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or

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