DA Zappala: Nothing illegal about Pittsburgh police Chief Harper's side business

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Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said today his office has reviewed the formation last year of a private public safety consulting firm involving Pittsburgh police Chief Nathan E. Harper and determined there is nothing illegal about it.

Mr. Zappala questioned why there was a need to form Diverse Public Safety Consultants LLC at all while Chief Harper and three of the other four organizers were still active police officers.

Mr. Zappala spoke earlier today with city Solicitor Daniel Regan to make him aware that the corporation has not applied through the DA's office for a private detective license.

If the group did file for such a license while Chief Harper and the other officers were still working for the police bureau, "we would oppose it," Mr. Zappala said.

"It's a dormant entity from all we can tell," Mr. Zappala said. "I don???t intend to take any other action."

On Feb. 28, 2012, Diverse Public Safety Consultants LLC was incorporated with the state with five organizers: Chief Harper; Sgt. Eric Holmes, whom the chief promoted six months later to commander; Sgt. Barry Budd; Officer Tonya Ford, and clerk Tamara Davis.

The chief said he did not initiate the formation of the business and that he planned to work for it as a consultant during his retirement. He said the business was not active and that it had no customers.

If Chief Harper and the other organizers of the corporation were to perform certain types of public safety consulting work after retiring from the job and while in possession of a valid private detective license there would likely be no problem.

But Mr. Zappala said if certain work is performed while the chief and the others are still employed as police officers -- work using investigative or intelligence information gathered through their position as police officers -- that would potentially be illegal.

According to a website that was taken down Wednesday after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette began asking questions about the business, Diverse Public Safety Consultants provides a wide range of services including training security guards, performing background checks, providing executive protection and supplying interim police chiefs.

Earlier today during a public appearance on the South Side, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he asked the city law department to review the situation.

"I was unaware of it until yesterday," the mayor said. "I'm not going to speculate beyond that at this point until I have a chance to speak to the chief and the law department. I do know there are employees who work for the city that also have other forms of employment and income. Whether or not this is appropriate is something we'll take a look at."

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Jonathan D. Silver: jsilver@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1962.


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