Two members of Allegheny County Council are miffed because they have not been involved in the hiring of county directors, in particular Karen Hacker, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald's choice to lead the health department. Not to be rude, but why should they?
These choices do not require council votes. That's because when county voters approved a new system of home rule government in 1998 -- replacing the old three-commissioner arrangement -- they embraced a system characterized by a strong chief executive and a part-time council.
The thought at the time was that these would be citizen legislators, not professionals. What county council members are paid for their service is a reminder of that founding principle.
Members do not receive professional salaries but per-meeting stipends that initially were not to exceed $9,000 annually plus expenses. Members are not given county funding for personal staff or local district offices or for benefits such as health insurance.
At these meager prices, the council members are not being paid to get into the hiring process -- they have enough to do with their legislative duties, which include adopting budgets and passing ordinances.
At Tuesday's night's council meeting, William Robinson, D-Hill District, argued that the county code requires that council be given the opportunity to interview all final candidates and make recommendations. He was backed up by James Ellenbogen, D-Banksville, who said council's authority was being undermined.
Hardly. In the case of Dr. Hacker's job, the health department is a distinct entity from the county, even if Mr. Fitzgerald has the power to make appointments. While there is a disagreement between the county solicitor and council's director of legislative services on whether the code applies, Mr. Fitzgerald's office has the best of the argument as a practical matter. There are 15 council members. If they get into the process of interviewing prospective hires, delays and foot-dragging are inevitable.
No, council members should do their thing and let Mr. Fitzgerald, ultimately accountable, do his.