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Deputy mayor blasts DeLuca

| Friday, March 26, 2004

Mayor Anthony DeLuca's closest ally on council says he mishandled the ouster of longtime Solicitor August C. Damian.

Deputy Mayor Yvonne Lamanna sided with the mayor and Councilman J.-LaVon Kincaid Sr. last week in council's 3-1 vote to fire Damian. But she says DeLuca went too far when he declared Jan. 19 that Damian had "constructively resigned" by missing a series of council meetings.

"There was no quorum, no meeting and no vote," Lamanna said. "And as for a 'constructive resignation,' I've never heard of such a ridiculous thing."

It's Lamanna's first public criticism of the mayor since the two were sworn in Jan. 5 to the municipality's top two posts. They, along with Kincaid, form a rival faction to council members Mary Rose Davis and John DePietro.

DeLuca contends that Penn Hills' home rule charter gave him the authority to oust Damian.

"The mayor can't change solicitors every year, but when the administration changes, I believe he has the right."

Damian sought an injunction to prevent his ouster, contending DeLuca violated the home rule charter. Though that case became moot upon his firing, Damian still is seeking $28,000, money he says Penn Hills owes him for services he provided after his initial removal.

The ouster has left Penn Hills, Allegheny County's second largest municipality, without legal representation for more than two months.

"I believe it was a big mistake on the mayor's part," Lamanna said. "We should have kept an attorney on board until the new appointment was made."

Kincaid believes DeLuca acted within his authority as mayor.

"The precedent was already set in the charter for the mayor to do the appointment," Kincaid said.

Lamanna also criticized the mayor for asking council to meet March 17 with George Specter, a longtime assistant solicitor with the city of Pittsburgh whom DeLuca hoped to appoint to Damian's old job.

"The mayor unilaterally removed the solicitor without the advice and consent of council," Lamanna said. "And he made another unilateral move last week when he sprung his choice on us for a new solicitor."

Lamanna recommended that council issue an official "request for proposals" from all interested attorneys before talking to any candidates for the post.

"What I wanted to do was bring his name up," DeLuca said. "I didn't want to be too long without a solicitor. And I'm still looking at a full-time solicitor -- I don't want to trade one retainer for another retainer."

Council advertised Wednesday for the post. Council plans to open applications April 14 and develop a short list of applicants to interview.

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