Mayor fires three top cabinet members

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B.J. Leber
Susan Malie
Paul Leger
By Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A power struggle within Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O'Connor's administration ended today with the firing of his chief of staff, top lawyer and finance director.

Mayoral spokesman Dick Skrinjar would not elaborate on the reasons for the firing, other than to reiterate several times that the mayor "has been saddened and disappointed by the actions of some of his staff members in his absence. He had no choice but to terminate them."

Martha Rial, Post-Gazette
Dennis Regan, a longtime friend of Mayor Bob O'Connor, was named temporary chief of staff today.
Click photo for larger image.
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The firings come two days after the release of a memo by now-fired City Solicitor Susan Malie, carbon-copied to the mayor, questioning whether City Council needed to approve the appointment of a new General Services director, Yarone Zober.

That appointment and Ms. Malie's memo were viewed by many as reflections of a struggle within the administration over who should serve as deputy mayor if Mr. O'Connor becomes temporarily incapacitated. He is being treated for brain cancer.

The firings occured about 9:15, Mr. Skrinjar said, during the weekly meeting of top staff and department heads. Mr. O'Connor participated by telephone from his room at UPMC Shadyside Hospital.

The three fired officials were told to gather their personal belongings and were escorted from the City-County Building by members of the mayor's personal security detail, he said.

Gone is Chief of Staff B.J. Leber, 51, imported from WQED Multimedia to lead the turnaround of city government. Her role will be temporarily filled by Dennis Regan, 53, a long-time O'Connor friend who had been director of intergovernmental affairs.

Ms. Malie, 38 and a city lawyer since 1991, will be temporarily replaced by George Specter, 71, and with the city for nearly 20 years.

The duties of Finance Director Paul Leger, 61, will be handled by Scott Kunka, 50, a 22-year city journeyman who worked closely with Mr. O'Connor when the mayor was a city councilman.

None of the fired officials could be reached for comment.

The Tuesday memo from Ms. Malie questioned whether council had to, or could, approve Mr. Zober's nomination to head the soon-to-be-dissolved General Services Department. The appointment was viewed by some as a potential stepping stone to the deputy mayor's slot should the mayor become disabled.

Mr. Skrinjar had said that the memo wasn't valid because it questioned Mr. O'Connor's decision.


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