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Upcoming vacancy on council 'open to anybody'

| Thursday, Nov. 13, 2003

Democrats maintaining control of Penn Hills council still won't make it easier to fill a vacancy created by Tuesday's election.

Mayor-elect Anthony DeLuca Jr. will give up his council seat early next year with two years left on his term.

Under the Penn Hills home rule charter established in 1976, when a vacancy on council occurs, the mayor makes a nomination subject to approval by a majority of council. But with the impending vacancy, there will only be four voting members -- the mayor and three councilmen -- instead of the usual five.

"That means the replacement is going to need three votes," said Councilwoman Mary Rose Davis. "At least three out of people are going to have to agree on someone, and that's not necessarily going to be easy."

Besides DeLuca and Davis, the remainder of council will be incumbent John DePietro, who won re-election Nov. 4, along with former municipal Controller Yvonne Lamanna, the top vote-getter in the election.

If a consensus cannot be reached within 45 days, the appointment will be turned over to Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, Penn Hills Deputy Clerk Diane Fitzhenry said.

"I haven't even thought about the appointment to council yet," said DeLuca, who pointed out the selection process will be discussed by the transition team he intends to form in coming weeks. "When I have to resign, we will work together on it."

Up to now, there has been some dissension on the existing council since DeLuca handily won the Democratic nod over three-term Mayor William DeSantis in the May primary.

DeLuca said the vacant seat is "open to anybody" and he will take applications and resumes, then make a recommendation from there.

Lamanna said she wonders if the contentious climate will have a chilling effect on potential replacements.

"There's been so much tension, I just hope that it's not going to deter any upstanding citizens in the community from coming forward and putting their names in the hat," Lamanna said. "And I wouldn't be surprised if we encountered a resistance to change from the old regime."

Erin Vecchio, who chairs the Penn Hills Democratic Party, said she expects to be involved with the selection.

"There are lots of people who are interested, but at this point, I wouldn't say there are any front-runners," Vecchio said.

Davis said the discussions will not be politically charged, although she does expect some "give and take."

"It's still a little too early to tell," Davis said. "It's not one person's choice. And I will see to it that we pick the best person to act in the interest of the citizens of Penn Hills -- Democrats and Republicans."

In the past, council has filled vacancies without landing in common pleas court on two occasions: first, when Frank Pecora was elected to the state senate in the late 1970s, and then in 1986, when DePietro's wife, June, died in office.

Fitzhenry said earlier this week she has not received any applications for the pending vacancy.

"Until Jan. 5, there is no vacancy on council," Fitzhenry said, referring to the date DeLuca is scheduled to be sworn in as mayor.

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