Pittsburgh's proposed head of management and budget, who has tax problems, withdraws

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Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's pick to lead the city's budget office withdrew himself from consideration Friday after some council members expressed uneasiness with his financial background, including $83,000 owed to the Internal Revenue Service.

Ed Kiely, a business consultant based in Point Breeze who has worked extensively on municipal finances, wrote in a letter that he worried his confirmation process -- where questions about the taxes would inevitably be asked -- could be a distraction. His announcement came after he canceled meetings with at least four council members this week. He did not return a phone message left at his office on Friday.

"As much as I would have been privileged to support your vision to improve city government, my nomination has been politicized to the extent that I now believe it in the best interest of the city that I ask that you withdraw my nomination," he wrote in a letter released by the mayor's office.

The mayor announced Feb. 5 that he had nominated Mr. Kiely, whose campaign for city controller he ran in the early 1990s, to lead the city's newly formed Office of Management and Budget. Mr. Kiely was chosen through Talent City, a foundation-backed initiative that's intended to take the politics out of hiring by using outside committees and human resource firms to screen candidates and select finalists.

When the mayor was questioned about Mr. Kiely's past, he defended his pick. He said that Mr. Kiely's business had done work for a large client who failed to pay him, causing him financial strain that left him unable to pay his taxes.

"I regret that his nomination became mired in politics, and Dr. Kiely never had the opportunity to receive a fair and thorough hearing before City Council," the mayor wrote in a statement Friday.

But Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak said it was not politics but Mr. Kiely's troubling background that would have held up his nomination. She informed the mayor's office early on that she would not vote for Mr. Kiely's confirmation and pointed out that it was his choice to withdraw from the process before he had an opportunity for a public interview. Ms. Rudiak is normally considered an ally of the mayor, having backed his campaign and recently worked with his office on open data legislation.

"I have a fiduciary responsibility to the city, and when looking at Mr. Kiely's record, a lot of questions were raised," she said. "I wouldn't say this is mired in politics ... especially when I really seek to work with the administration.

"To say that it's political is unfair."

In the last week, he had meetings scheduled with council members Deb Gross, Corey O'Connor, Theresa Kail-Smith and Ricky Burgess. He canceled or failed to show to all of them.

Both Mr. O'Connor and Mr. Burgess said they had planned on keeping an open mind about Mr. Kiely and had not decided whether they would support his nomination. Mr. O'Connor said he planned to ask Mr. Kiely for an explanation about his taxes.

"That's a legit question that I think somebody should ask because you're going to be in charge of finance," he said. "To me, obviously it would have been [an issue], but again I always give individuals the chance to explain themselves."

Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. First Published February 21, 2014 3:33 PM

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