Hiring process upsets some on county council

February 27, 2012 12:00 am

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Allegheny County Council has replaced two key employees, but the method used to hire the new staff members has upset two councilmen.

Walter Szymanski was selected from among 20 applicants to become council's budget director. Celeste Stevens was picked to become council's executive secretary, responsible for purchasing and payroll, among other duties.

Council's five-member executive committee made the final decision to hire Mr. Szymanski and Ms. Stevens, a move that Councilman Michael Finnerty, D-Scott, said contradicted "past practices" for the county's governing body.

Council committees make recommendations, Mr. Finnerty said. Final action on ordinances, resolutions and staff hiring all should be made by the full 15-member council.

Council Vice President Nick Futules, D-Oakmont, who chairs the executive committee, disagreed. He sought a legal opinion from council solicitor John Cambest, who advised him that the executive committee has the power to hire.

It would be inappropriate, in any case, to discuss such matters before full council because they involve personnel issues, Mr. Futules said.

That explanation did not satisfy Councilman James Ellenbogen, D-Banksville. "I don't know anything about who these people are," he said of the new hires. He described the executive committee's action as "power politics ... it may be legally right, but morally it is not right."

As they debated the issue during Tuesday's council meeting, Mr. Finnerty and Mr. Futules became angrier, with both sometimes seeking to speak at the same time. "You shut up," Mr. Finnerty said at one point to Mr. Futules. "You don't have the floor."

"Let's keep this civil," council President Charles Martoni said.

First Published 2012-02-26 23:11:11

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