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Police union head calls Mayor Murphy 'snake'

| Wednesday, April 13, 2005, 12:00 p.m.

The president of Pittsburgh's police union called Mayor Tom Murphy a "snake" Tuesday for giving Pittsburgh firefighters a contract that violates the city's spending plan and includes health care and job security benefits denied to police.

"I think the mayor is hypocritical," said Michael R. Havens Jr., president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1. During contract negotiations between the city and the police, "They sat there and told us, 'No, this is the plan you get, there are no amendments.' And then they turn around and amend the plan for the firefighters. It's business as usual for the mayor and the firefighters."

City Council approved an ordinance March 16 that amends the city's Act 47 spending plan to allow for the firefighters contract.

Murphy spokesman Craig Kwiecinski said the mayor hadn't received a copy of a letter written by Havens, which was distributed to the media yesterday afternoon.

Havens has complained about numerous problems plaguing Pittsburgh police during the past nine months, including understaffing in the bureau and police car shortages.

Havens said firefighters pay $15 less a month for family health care coverage, receive more reimbursement for accumulated sick time upon retirement and are not subject to the same pension benefits cuts as police, under Murphy's contract proposals last year.

In January, Murphy appealed the terms of a police contract created through a three-person arbitration panel in December. The matter remains in litigation.

Havens also criticized Murphy for comments the mayor made in an April 1 letter in which he vowed to beat a lawsuit filed against the city by Pittsburgh's financial oversight board, or Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority. The authority was appointed by the state to help guide the city's long-term financial plans.

"Murphy's sitting there saying the ICA board is wasting the taxpayers' money for trying to challenge the firefighters contract. Now he's wasting taxpayer money trying to appeal language in the police contract that was given to the firefighters."

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